Sunday, September 30, 2007

Seeing (in the) Red

I got out of work today at 6pm and felt pretty lazy. I had to make a stop at CVS and, after some back and forth, decided to go to McDonald's next door for dinner. I had a little wiggle room in my grocery budget and figured food can equal groceries, for one night at least. I pulled into the drive-thru and ordered myself a value meal.

When I pulled up to the window, I handed the high school girl my debit card. I watched her swipe it once, twice, call her manager over and then turned to me and said "I'm sorry, your card isn't working." My heart sunk. I could feel all the blood in my body rushing to my cheeks. I looked back in my wallet, thought about grabbing a credit card & decided not to. I told the girl, "Sorry. Can you please cancel my order?" shifted into drive and hightailed it out of there.

How could this happen??? I couldn't get that thought out of my head. I drove straight to the bank, squealed into the drive-up ATM and quickly checked my balance. Impatiently, I waited for the magic number to pop up on the screen. -$818.11! When it did, I shouted at the machine, "Are you KIDDING me?? What is going on here?" I raced home to check my activity online.

Running through my head on the 6 minute drive was whether I had bought anything since the last time I checked my balance on Friday, when it was $728.39. Nope, nothing. I logged in, saw the online available balance was the same red number. Then saw my pending activity.

The mortgage payment is there. Dated October 1, 2007. Check your watches, ladies and gents, it's actually September 30, 2007. How did my mortgage company go into the future and take money from my bank account? Do they go for a ride with Doc Brown in the Delorean? Why is that posted already? It's pending, but still. They have put a hold on that money.

Looking back in our Quicken, there have only been 3 instances since we bought the house where the 1st of the month fell on a Monday (8/05, 5/06 & 1/07). In all 3 we have had sufficient funds in our account to cover the mortgage payment if they have pulled this before. So I don't know what's going to happen. My husband gets paid on the 1st of the month, and in recent months we have needed that paycheck to cover the mortgage as I pretty much drain the bank account to pay off our debts. This might be much ado about nothing. But I do get pretty peeved when I try to spend our money only to be told it's not there. We'll see how it all goes down tomorrow.

To be continued...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Expensive Report

There are times that we have to front money for work reasons. I have done so occasionally, for parking or ink for my printer in our satellite office. Nothing more than $40 or so, and they reimburse me pretty quickly. My husband has to operate a little differently.

He works for his own company, which is growing and expanding rapidly. While they're still developing, we front some of the expenses for his travel. Usually it's no big deal, he'll submit his receipts and we get the money back before the credit card comes due. September was a big travel month, so he was home only 1 week of the whole month. During that week, he was going absolutely crazy preparing for the next trip and wasn't able to file his receipts. So everything is carrying over.

We're not talking about $40 in expenses anymore. With round trip flights for two separate business trips, hotel, and various client dinners, the bill on the credit card totals about $3500. Ugh. To top it off, the credit card he uses is the only one we have paid off completely. Since we're snowballing our debt, we paid off the credit card with the highest interest rate first. So the interest rate on the card is... 27.99%. Yowza.

My husband will return home 3 days before the credit card bill is due. Even in the best situation, we won't be able to get the turn around time needed to pay it off this month. Doing the math, the interest charge for floating the balance this month should be about $40. I'm not sure if this will be considered reimbursable by the company or if we're going to have to eat it.

These expenses are undesirable. Usually, we don't incur any permanent personal charges. Eventually, we won't have to front the money at all. I have come up with the following plan to get through the time until then.

  • Look on the bright side. Hey, at least it's a points credit card. We get a $25 Amazon gift certificate for every 2500 points. ($1 = 1 point)
  • Minimize the damage. Believe it or not, 27.99% is the improved interest rate. It used to be 29.99%. I intend to keep calling them every 3 months to try and lower it even more.
  • Prevent when possible. With shorter trips, he can file the expense report and get reimbursed before the grace period is over for the credit cards. This time, the timing was just plain bad.
  • Don't let it affect motivation. Putting a balance back on that card just plain hurts. I know it's only there temporarily, but I hate seeing a balance. I hate that credit card. We worked our butts off to get rid of that beast. Just seeing another huge negative in my Quicken feels like a setback, even though it's not.
  • Git 'er done. No screwing around. Once he gets back, he'll be filing the receipts the next day. As soon as we get the check in our grubby little hands, it'll be in the bank account and turned over to the credit card the second it clears. Our interest is calculated on average daily balance, so the sooner that balance is zero, the better.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Math Behind the Balance Transfer

After running the numbers, I am even more excited about doing this balance transfer. According to my favorite debt reduction planner, if I do not make the transfer, I will pay $620.97 in interest before my credit cards are paid off. This is, of course, assuming that I make my goal monthly payment of $2746 towards our credit cards. Which I have been having a tough time doing. So the $620.97 interest is the best case scenario. But I digress.

With the balance transfer, the interest paid only comes to $291.24! That's a savings of $329.73 over the next 7 months. While this is only 1.8% of the current total debt, it's still $329. And this if we are able to stay on target with our debt payoff. If we have to push it out even further (I hope not!), at least we won't be accruing interest.

Paidtwice, IOU! :)

Losing Interest

After I wrote my post on The Value of Interest, I received a comment from paidtwice. She had discovered a credit card with 0% interest for 12 months and no transfer fee. It's the AT&T Universal card and I was thrilled to learn about it! So I decided to apply for it myself and see if I could cut my interest paid.

I applied online and was instantly approved, with a credit limit of $5300!! Yessa! As soon as I get the card, I am going to switch $5100 of our second-highest interest debt to the 0% card. Why $5100? Because I'm leaving myself a buffer in the off chance that there is a fee somewhere so I don't go over the limit. (And I would raise holy heck if that were the case, but still.) Why the second highest interest rate? Because the highest one will be gone in October! I was hoping for September, but some unexpected expenses arose and it had to be pushed back.

I can't wait until I can crunch the numbers tonight and see how much interest this is going to save me!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tales of a Cashier - Sign Language

I do something that increasingly rare for a cashier: I check the signature on credit cards against the signature on the receipt. Too many times I have purchased something, usually with a self-swipe kiosk, and held out my card, face down, only to be ignored by the cashier. How do they know I am me? I always use my bank card as credit because my bank charges me to use it as debit, so I run into this signature scenario at almost every store.

When I'm on the other side of the counter, I often go to check the signature and find that the card is blank. Thieves dream about wallets filled with unsigned credit cards just waiting for your name in their handwriting. I cringe when I go to compare the signature and find a big empty space. I always mention it to the customer and suggest they sign the back. At the very least, write SEE ID. Nine times out of ten, the cashier still won't ask to check your license. But at least it's not a free-for-all in the signature line. Not to mention that credit cards state "Not valid unless signed."

Personally, my cards all bear my John Hancock. My husband prefers to write SEE ID. In these times, when many purchases are online, the signature line almost seems superfluous. But there's no way I'd leave mine blank.

Festival of Frugality #93 is up at Money and Values

This week's Festival of Frugality was posted this morning at Money and Values. Penny Nickel posted with a cake theme and lots of cool, decorated, yummy cakes for each category. My post on Adventures in Groceries was included! I didn't have a a chance to read the other articles yet, but check it out, there are tons of good ones!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Is this really what we want to teach children?

I saw a commercial recently for the new version of Monopoly. Now, there is no more paper money. Everything is done with a debit card. Land on a property? Swipe! You own it. Have to buy a hotel? Swipe! Build it right up. Boardwalk? Swipe! $400 to your opponent.

Or actually, it's not $400 anymore. It's $20 million. I know that when Monopoly originally came out, the amounts were a little pie-in-the-sky. But $20 million? That's more than most people will earn in their lifetime.

The biggest problem I have with this new version is that it takes away any lessons the old Monopoly had and replaces them.

  • Old lesson: basic math. Count out the money, pay what is owed.
  • New lesson: use a calculator. The magic machines will do all the math for you.
  • Old lesson: budgeting. You have to pick whether you put a house on Vendor Ave or Atlantic Ave. You can't do both.
  • New lesson: spending money is easy and fast. One swipe and you're done.
  • Old lesson: debt = pain. It hurts to mortgage your properties to pay the income tax.
  • New lesson: I don't have enough money? Oh, I know! I'll just take out a mortgage on Reading Railroad.
  • Old lesson: you get what you see. Everyone's money is out on the table.
  • New lesson: appearances can be deceiving. The player with the most properties and hotels can have $10 in their bank account.
The last lesson is the only pro I see about this game, and it's a little bit of a stretch for the 8+ age group. I understand that the Parker Brothers are trying to keep up with the times and update their old classic. But whatever happened to Red Sox Monopoly? I feel like this is a step in the wrong direction. Instead of taking the opportunity to teach children about finance in a game format, it goes completely in the other direction. In eight-year-old eyes, what's the difference between a debit card and a credit card? I shudder at the thought of kids learning early that, in their own words, [a]ll it takes is a card swipe for money to change hands.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

One of the two most common pieces of advice to keeping your grocery bill within budget is to make a list and stick to it. The other is to shop alone, leaving kids and spouses at home. The last trip to the store I broke all the rules. Danger is my middle name.

I won't pretend I wasn't afraid. But I went bravely into battle with my sword (the monthly circular) and shield (extra room in this month's budget). At the end of the trip, I emerged victorious! The grand total came to $71.07, under my weekly budget of $75. Without a list or a plan!

I think the trick to doing well without my usual half hour of planning is simply knowing the good prices. I bought a lot of meat on sale, including chicken breast for $1.99/lb and pot roast for $1.99/lb. I didn't buy any items that we don't buy on a regular basis. Even better, I have almost enough food to last me for the rest of September, so I will be plenty under the grocery budget. Woo! After the credit card and car setbacks, I am psyched to have some good news.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Value of Interest

Interest can be a good thing. No, I'm not talking about the interest you earn on your investments or in your savings account. That's a great kind of interest, of course, and you hear everywhere about the miracle of compound interest. I'm talking about the APR on your credit cards.

I know what you're thinking: this lady is crazy! But hear me out. The interest you pay on your cards is a motivator to pay them off and move into a debt-free lifestyle. I can honestly tell you that if my cards and debts had 0% interest, I would continue paying minimum payments forever. I would most likely use the cards every day instead of paying in cash or my debit card. I would probably rely on them in an emergency and use them to fund my retirement. My (future) children would inherit my debt and need to sell my estate to pay it all off.

Now, a more likely scenario is that I would still eventually figure out the whole personal finance thing and build up wealth. But I would bet that I wouldn't do that for some time and lose years of earnings. The interest on our debts is what motivates me to pay them off. I feel sick to my stomach when I think of how much money we're paying in interest. And that keeps me aggressive at paying down the principle.

I feel so strongly about this that I turned down my parents when they offered us a low interest loan to wipe out our credit card debt so we could pay less interest overall. I told them that we needed to pay the interest. This is our penance. We did the crime, now we're doing the time. Of course, I have continually lowered our interest rates and if I could find a 0% balance transfer offer that had no fee, I would jump on it. Right now, this interest is helping us financially in the backwards manner. Soon, we'll be using interest to grow our money!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Unexpected Car Repair

The car was making a funny scraping noise in the right rear. Oh crap. We let it go on as long as possible (read: too long) and finally took it to our trusty mechanic, Dave. Dave is old school - leave your car in the yard with a note on the windshield and he'll fix it right up. He's reliable, trustworthy, and has low labor costs. Everyone's dream guy. That's why I go to a mechanic located 45 minutes from my house.

I dropped the car off Friday night, and though it was done on Saturday, I was able to get it back today. The damage? $233.22. Ouch. That ruins my car service budget, putting me over for the month and the year. Since I $150 was in parts - a new set of brake and a new rotor, I still feel like I got off easy. He only charges $50 an hour in labor. I tried to find a national average labor cost, but google failed me. I think $50/hour is a good rate - do you think so?

Although I am upset to spend the money, I know that it's necessary. We need to have 2 cars. We need reliable transportation for our jobs. Especially brakes, it's non-negotiable; it's a safety issue. I just hate spending unplanned money. I wanted than money to go to our debt. I need to find a way to make up the money so I can at least balance out the month.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Festival and a Carnival!

Which would I prefer, a festival or a carnival? In the real world, festivals are more booths and shopping, while carnivals have rides and *shudder* carnies. So it's a toss up.

In the blogging world, both amount to the same thing: a collection of blog posts on similar topics. This week I participated in my first ever festival and first ever carnival. I am excited to announce that my articles were included in both!

The Festival of Frugality #92 was hosted this week by No Credit Needed. I can only imagine how long it took to read all the submissions, thanks NCN! My post on The Best Souvenirs was included. My favorite posts from the festival are:

The Carnival of Money Stories is hosted this week at Paid Twice. True to the story telling form, the articles are included in a fairy tale. My article on how I want an emergency fund is part of the tale. My other picks include:

Holy links batman! Enjoy all the different articles at both the carnival and the festival, there are tons of great ones!

Conclusion to the Late Fee Fiasco

Well, it's all over. I feel like I lost. I originally incurred a late fee on my Bank of America account, then I called and had it removed. They removed it for me. Twice. So I called and had them adjust that. They told me this would also adjust my minimum payment.

The bill is due today and the minimum payment stands at $171, which is $39 more than usual. The original late fee was... you guessed it, $39. I called them and their automated service also says $171.

I just paid them the $171. I'm afraid if I try to fight this anymore, my payment won't be processed in time and it will be late again. That's the last thing I want.

I am kind of angry at myself for even mentioning the $39 they gave back to me that extra time. I could have kept my mouth shut and earned $39. It's not like I haven't paid them many times that in interest charges. Grrrrrr.

Things will be so much easier when all the debt is GONE!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tales of a Cashier - A Mother's Lesson

I work part-time in retail and come across a lot of people buying a lot of things. The store I work in is a home store, so almost all of the items are not necessary to survival. I try not to judge the customers coming through my line, but sometimes it's difficult. I am in a self-imposed frugal lifestyle to work on getting out of debt and people just spend so much money. Just about every day I see an interesting purchase, or in this case, a return.

It was the end of the evening, right before we were closing up for the night. I had a couple of people left in my line and then the doors would close. I came upon a girl, probably about 11 or 12 years old, and her mother. They each paid for their items separately. The girl purchased a day calendar and a photo frame. She put her items down and pulled out a $20 to pay. When I told her the total of $26, her mom stopped her from getting more money out and chipped in a $10. I rang her out and continued to the next customer in line.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mother and girl having a discussion. A minute later, when my line was empty, the girl came back up to me. "I would like to return this, please," she said, holding out the day calendar. "I didn't realize it cost $11.99."

Once I gave her the money back and they had left, I got to thinking. What a great lesson the mother had just given! In five minutes, she managed to convey mindful shopping, budgeting, and smart spending. The girl was able to quickly remedy her error, renege on her original decision, and keep her $11.99. I was so excited to see an example of good money habits.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Frugal Game

I have been reading No Credit Needed's 33 Days and 33 Ways to Save Money and Reduce Debt, and his 16th day really struck a nerve. He discussed frugal living and how saving money can be fun.

I'm still working on living more simply, but I definitely enjoy saving money. When I go grocery shopping, I challenge myself to keep within my list and budget. I often make my list too short on purpose to allow for a little bit of impulse buying- within reason. I write down the price of everything I pick up and total it up before I go to the cash register. The game is to get my estimate as close as possible to the actual price. I rock out to my iPod and compare prices by volume, sales, and coupons. Since I don't shop very much for other items besides food & household items, I take my time and enjoy it.

Right now we're living simply and not buying many items, but it's mostly because we're determined to pay off our debt. I haven't really thought how our finances and budget will change once that happens. Trying to keep the eye on the prize.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Late Fee Saga Continues

Last month, I made a mistake and paid my credit card late. To remedy the situation, I called and got the late fee removed. I then went to pay this month's bill and saw that they had made a mistake. The late fee had been removed twice.

This wouldn't even be a big deal at all, except their system automatically calculated my minimum payment this month to be $onelatefee more than usual. This was messing up my system. I'm snowballing our debt, so I pay the minimum on all but one card. Paying the extra $39 error would mean $39 less to the card with 19.99% interest.

So I call Bank of America. Again. I explain the situation, that they double credited my account. The woman I spoke with apologized and readjusted my balance. Great. I asked her when my minimum payment would be back to normal. She said after midnight. This was Friday. OK, thank you, have a good day. We were only on the phone for 6 minutes.

Today I go to make my payment. First, the balance has been adjusted. But the minimum payment has not. I am getting aggravated here. Mostly at myself for getting into this mess, and for saying something about their double credit mistake. If the minimum payment is going to be the same, higher value, I could have at least gotten the $39 credit. I know I've paid them that much many, many times over in interest. But I had to be honest (dang it!). So now I get to call them again.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Free Netflix Trial

You all know how much I love Netflix - here's a chance to try it out. They're offering a free one month trial (expires September 30). I haven't read the fine print, but even if you don't want to keep it, you could watch a few free movies.

Disclaimer: I am in no way connected to Netflix nor do I benefit from people getting a free trial. I just love them and thought it was a good opportunity.t

The best souvenirs are inexpensive

When I travel, it's on a budget. (Surprised?) But of course, I still like to get a few things to remind me of my trip. The last vacation I went on, a Caribbean cruise in February, I budgeted $200 for souvenirs and spent $203, including gifts and bottles of alcohol (cheaper in the Caribbean!). Here are my tips for great souvenirs on the cheap:

Buy local goods. No need to buy the same T-shirt branded with a different location. Get something that's really original. A great example of this is local food or liquor. When we were in St. Maarten on our honeymoon, we brought back local Guavaberry Rum, which we've never seen anywhere else. Last week my husband came home from his business trip in Hawaii with chocolate covered macadamia nuts. He bought them at Sam's club for $14.

Check out art. Here's something that will last forever and always remind you of your trip. The best part of buying a piece of local art is that it's authentic and unique. Often times you'll find pieces that are handmade. Not to mention that you're supporting local businesses, rather than imported goods mass produced.

Bargain, bargain, bargain. Lots of the best pieces are found in small shops. You can almost always get a better price on the pieces you find. The trick is knowing what you want to spend, then offering less than that so you settle on the price you have in mind.

Have a signature souvenir. Everywhere we go, my husband and I pick up a locally brewed beer, save the bottle and fill it with sand (or when we go skiing - snow). Since we would be buying the beer anyway, we get a great addition to our collection and they only cost $2 or $3. Similarly, my dad collects shot glasses from all his destinations. Other ideas could be key chains, magnets, spoons - anything that you enjoy and can find uniquely. They often cost very little and help assuage the need to buy something.

Make a budget and stick to it. Be realistic and disciplined. It's easy to get out of control when you're on vacation, but eventually you have to return to reality - and you don't want the souvenir of credit card debt to come with you. I use a cash system for souvenirs, and when it's up, it's up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How much are you worth?

Everybody has a certain amount of earning potential, determined by their education, experience, ambition and need. Most people don’t maximize their potential because they don’t need to make more money. They choose to spend their time on more enjoyable endeavors. However, if you are in debt or have a specific financial goal, increasing your income, even temporarily, will help to speed up the process.

It doesn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but working a part time job 12 hours a week at $8.50/hour is $102 per week. Which translates to $408/month and $5304/year. What could you do with an extra $5K a year? Pay down debt? Build up your savings? Take a nice vacation?

With my part time job, I am able to bring in more money to attack our debt. I work 2 weeknights and both Saturday and Sunday for a total of 20-24 hours each week. Yes, it is grueling at times, but I am able to bring in an extra $600-800 every month. It all goes straight to the credit cards. (Although we did use the part time money to go on vacation in February – in cash.) I work in retail, but there are tons of options to earn a little extra dough:

Raise: Don’t want to take on another job? Make more money where you are. This may take a while to implement, but it’s all for your career. Making more money and moving up on the corporate ladder.

Retail: Lots of stores are hiring now for Christmas, and there are plenty of advantages retail. Most notable are the flexible hours and employee discounts, which come in handy for holiday gifts as well. One caveat is trying to resist the temptation to buy thing for yourself.

Restaurant: There is a lot of potential to earn extra money as a waitperson, and, depending on your personality, it can be a lot of fun, too. If you're a people person, this is ideal for you.

Resell: Ever feel like you have a ton of stuff? You can purge and make some extra cash at the same time. Fall is ideal for yard sales and garage sales, and there is a buyer for just about everything on eBay or Craigslist.

The bottom line is that your top line is negotiable. If your budget isn't working or you want to expedite your goals, sometimes it's easier to make more than to spend less.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I love grocery shopping even more than ever

I am rocking the grocery shopping in September. We're 10 days in and I have only spent about $66. Since I go shopping for the week on Sunday, I have enough food to last me through the 14th or 15th. On $66.

I know, there are a ton of reasons why things are so far under budget. My husband was away on business the whole first week of September. I've eaten a few meals at my parent's house. I pulled things out of the freezer. I tend to cook less for one, so I've been eating simple pasta meals or sandwiches recently.

I was kind of expecting this week to cost more, though. I made a list almost haphazardly, figuring I already had some extra money to play with. I didn't even stick to my list. I did buy meat on sale and stay away from the processed foods, but still.

So now I am going to try to see how much under budget I can make it. I am shooting for $100 under budget. We did incur additional travel expenses when my husband was away, so this would even it out. Or maybe I'll put it aside to save for Christmas shopping. We'll see where the debt payoff is at the end of the month.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Like finding a twenty in your pocket

Back in the beginning of 2007, my company switched from a twice-monthly paycheck to bi-weekly. Due to the way they set it up, the first paycheck was only for 40 hours instead of 80. (Despite the fact I am salary, we still have hours in the paycheck. Don't ask me.) To make up for this, my company offered an advance of 60 hours pay. The first paycheck under the new system would then be for 100 hours, and I would pay back a little bit at a time through August.

Of course, I took the advance - it was a free loan, with automatic payments and no interest. Then I forgot about it. Sure, I would see it on my pay stub occasionally, but I don't really scrutinize them because they're all the same. Until the paycheck I got last week. When I was glancing over it, I noticed it was a little higher than before. I was finally done paying my company back!

You cannot imagine how excited I was to discover that extra $57 in my paycheck. Although I should have remembered, it was unexpected. What a great feeling. That night I went home and recalculated my budget, debt payoff forecast, and expected interest paid. What a great feeling.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I want to create an emergency fund

I have a personal finance confession: I don't have an emergency fund. Not yet. I try and keep about $1000 in our checking account throughout the month and use that as a buffer between the budget and unplanned expenses, then throw it at the debt the last week of the month before the paychecks roll in. If we have anything that comes up for more than that, we have available credit on the cards that we can use. Not ideal, I know, but I hate the idea of leaving unused money laying around when we're paying so much in interest.

The other thing that helps me sleep at night is knowing that, despite the unreliability of my commissions, our salaries pay the bills. We are very close to the point where my husband's salary covers everything and the money I bring in goes towards our debt payoff. I can't wait until this debt is gone and we can move into the black. However, something happened today that made me even more eager to build up an e-fund.

I was talking to one of my coworkers about how slow business has been recently. In our company, about half of our income should come from commissions. Having a slow month sales-wise translates into a much smaller paycheck than expected. My coworker was telling me that because the past few months have been slow he was going to dip into his 401(k) to pay his bills. A 401(k) he only started 18 months ago. My coworker is in his late fifties.

I was shocked when he told me this. Absolutely floored. I feel really bad for the guy; he must have no other options. But it strengthens my resolve to set up a big fat e-fund. I never want to be in a position where I have to make a decision on how to pay my bills. I've done that. That's how I got to be in debt now. I'm so happy that I'm young enough to fix it and straighten things out so I can have the security I want.

Monday, September 3, 2007

August Round Up

The month of August was...interesting. We didn't stick to the budget very well, and it shows. Here are the results - $ actual ($ budget).

The good:
  • Car insurance: $0.00 ($130.30) - we added a car to the insurance, and somehow they miscalculated how much we owed and were able to eliminate a month of payments
  • Car service: $22.85 ($41) - only one oil change this month!
  • Groceries: $297.10 ($300) - wooohoooo! under grocery budget!
  • Electric: $134.74 ($150) - I'd like to get this even lower this month when the weather requires no A/C or heat
The bad:
  • Tolls: $40.25 ($25) - two toll payments hit this month, so it should balance out next month
  • Dining: $14.81 ($0) - eating out should be fun money, so this should probably go there
  • Gifts given: $140.84 ($50) - the wedding present from July went through in August, so that accounts for most of this.
  • Household: $91.66 ($30) - we spent too much at Target. I need to keep this in check and maybe add to the budget
The ugly:
  • Gasoline: $537.54 ($400) - ouch, this hurts. September will be better as my husband will be traveling for 3 out of 4 weeks. Hopefully this will even out the two months.
  • My income (both jobs): $2534.44 ($3547) - I knew that my commissions this month would be off, and I cut back on my hours at my part time job to enjoy the summer a little. I am already making changes to fix this, including picking up another day at the part time job.
  • Fun money: $474.72 ($200) - no excuses. We had a lot of fun in August. We knew we were spending too much money and went about it recklessly. We didn't use a cash system and we went a little crazy. September is back to cash.
  • Credit card payment: $2154 ($2746) - well, this is where the cut is made. Money spent other places comes away from our main focus: getting out of debt. It's disappointing to have a setback and fuels the fire to hit our goal in September.
There you have it! Some things are working, some need work. Considering we had more bad than good, I'm pretty happy we still hit 78% of our debt paydown goal. But I know if we want to get out of debt by March, we need to step it up.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Make More Money versus Spend Less

I was doing a little lighter reading and picked up Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. I'll write a review of it later, but I wanted to talk about one point it brings up.

The main character is in debt and receives the advice that there are two things to do about it: Make More Money or Spend Less. I got to thinking about which camp I fall into.

Although I work a second, part time job to make more money, I definitely lean toward spend less. I scrutinize every purchase I make, I cut coupons, I make lists and lists before I go to the store. I agonize over spending money on myself. I look for ways to cut back everywhere in the budget. I turn off the A/C if it's even remotely cool, and keep the temp at 62 degrees in the house during the winter. And that's when we're there and awake - it's set to 52 when we're gone at work.

My husband is the opposite - he stands firmly in Make-More-Money land. I think part of this is because he works for himself, so time more directly translates to money.

At the end of the day, you really need both to reach your financial goals. Spending less isn't going to help if less is still more than what you bring in. And one of the biggest issues many people face is increasing lifestyle with a higher paycheck.

One or the other just isn't enough, but everybody prefers one. Which camp are you in?