You Need A Budget – Starting Out

I am a huge fan of Blogging Away Debt and I was recently inspired by a recent post by one of the bloggers about the budgeting program You Need A Budget (AKA YNAB). 

I have been making budgets for years…YEARS. The problem comes in the form of communicating and, ahem, enforcing with the rest of the household. I SERIOUSLY hate being the warden or bad guy to have to tell everyone, “there is no money for XYZ or ABC.” After reading Ashley’s post and the comments, and getting buy-in from my husband, I decided to start the 34 day Free Trial. As of writing, we’re about 18 days in, and I have to say it has been FANTASTIC. Here’s why:

  • My husband, he who hates money constraints, is logging his purchases and is totally on-board (!!!!).
  • We’re no longer checking our bank balance to make purchases; we’re checking our budget category balance instead.
  • It is helping us be more realistic about what we really have as we are only spending what we actually have.
  • We’re more accountable to each other. 

We have variable income since I am only available part-time and my days/hours and on-call shifts vary, so we’re working toward the concept of living on last month’s income (which the thing from Ashley’s post that drew me in to begin with). I don’t know how long that will take us, especially since we’re so focused on debt reduction at the same time, but I’ll keep updating on that as well.


Our teeny, tiny budget (kind of like a little baby unicorn)

As I mentioned in my last post, we had to find some ways to adjust to the reality of our lost income when I stayed home to provide care and education for our youngest adopted daughter. I have to admit that I had some pie-in-the-sky ideas about how my days would go and how I would be working part-time from home doing what SAHMs do when they need to bring in money. Soooooooo naive.

The reality is that I had no idea how much time therapy was going to take and that my daughter’s complete hatred of education was not limited to mainstream classrooms, that I had so little extra time, and I had to make some tough choices.  

  1. We went back to paying the minimums on the cards in most cases. When extra $ showed up, we threw it at bills as soon as we could.
  2. We set up a fund-raising website. In the state of California, homeschool requires the parent to set up a private school. So we did and we did something that is really hard for me – we asked people for money. Now, I only did that for about a month until I just got too embarrassed and I stopped, but we did net $400 from the effort, which really helped with school supplies and field trips.  
  3. We cancelled and cleaned out our storage unit…kind of. We’re still working through all of the boxes, but we decided not to pay any extra and to really look at the things that we have. I think it is safe to say that we have gotten rid of over 1/2 of it.
  4. We planted and grew vegetables. It was 40% effective. We had some fresh veggies, and we got time in the sunshine and “fresh” air (we do live in L.A. after all).
  5. We started shopping 1x/week. Which is directly related to #6
  6. We planned every single meal and snack. It really helped to keep costs down, which is something we had struggled with for a long time.
  7. We stopped drinking soda. I haven’t done a real analysis of this, but I am confident that we saved several hundred dollars with this choice. It was tough, but I am really glad we did it.
  8. We went gluten-free. Now, I know this is a little controversial and it is WAY trendy, which we are not, but…we had done a 10-day fast from gluten, and wouldn’t you know it, 3 of our 4 family members dropped major weight and lost puffiness. So, that also means that we can’t eat out very often, and if we do, it is generally a place with fresher/non-processed food. Which is good for our health and our budget.
  9. I got a part-time job. This was not originally the plan, and if fact, when I was approached with the position, I said ‘no’ because I didn’t want to take the time away from my family when we were trying to do some important therapy. But, we pondered and realized that 1 evening and 1 weekend-day each week should be do-able and would really help out with the finances. And it has! 

So, there you go – some of the things we did to counteract our shrinking income!


Been such a long time!

I have a kind of sad history with this blog in that I have had some long periods where I have fallen off the face of the earth and have neglected to record what is going on. It has actually caused me to feel some guilt, which is kind of silly, because what I write here may cause someone to think, but it isn’t the life and death work with which I have been involved with while I have been away.

So, I decided I won’t feel guilty, but I will share what has been going on for the last 15+ months. 


Our two daughters moved in with us in July of 2011. They were in the foster care system and we fostered them for a long time until we were finally allowed to adopt them. They were older and had experienced a lot of trauma, which meant that there were some significant challenges to come for all of us. I am NOT whining, but I can tell you that this has been the most costly and difficult thing that I have ever done. My husband and I have both had to leave jobs, lost friends, income and have found ourselves isolated on several occasions. This is a tough spot to be in when you are trying to reduce debt. When the rest of your life feel constricted, the last think you want is to feel like you can’t provide yourself some self-care because you wanted to pay that bill down by $20 extra. But we still managed to, even if it wasn’t as much as we had originally planned.


Well, after 7.5 years of slogging along part-time, I finally (!!!!!!) finished my masters degree! It has been great not to have to pay for tuition any more. And the last two years, we decided not to apply for another student loan, but to pay out of pocket. Which hurt. A lot. But we didn’t incur any additional student debt, which is good, because that bad boy bill is HIGH. 


This has been the biggest area of change. When I was last “current” on the blog, my husband had finally gotten a new job after being fired from his last job when his performance at work was affected by the special needs of our children. He found a position at an organization that really understood where he was coming from and that supported his focus on family over work. His 10 months of unemployment was PAINFUL. But then, when he went back to work, we discovered that our youngest was disintegrating at school. Eventually, the school asked us to come in for a meeting in the Spring of 2013 to let us know that they didn’t want our little 2nd grader there because she was too disruptive for the class. And this is the best school in the district (and they would not give us a permit to go to another district), so my husband and I had to talk and pray about the whole thing. Eventually, we came to conclusion that we would homeschool for the 2013-2014 school year to address the emotional and psychological needs of our little one. Which meant a 58% reduction in income. In your head, remember what E.T. said to Elliot when he cut his finger on the saw blade – “OOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCH!”  Yes, that is what that felt like.

I’ll write more about some of the things that we did to replace income, but it should be clearer that I was away for a good reason and that while it kept me so drained that I couldn’t write, it didn’t stop our debt journey. 

Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more soon!

June 2014 :: Report

Debt Reduction

Here is where we were after 6.30.2014:

Credit Card Debt               :: $    16,294.96
Taxes Owed                   :: $            00.00
Car Loan  #1                    :: $      4,829.69
Car Loan  #1                    :: $     11,744.76
Tuition                           :: $             00.00
Personal Loans                 :: $           00.00

Total Debt*                        ::  $ 32,869.41

*does not include school loans

We have come down a little bit since last time, but as you’ll see in my post later this week, I haven’t had a full-time job for almost a year, so that’s to be expected.


We didn’t have a budget for this last month, but we will have some information about what we are doing for July!


Where we landed at the end of June:

Regular Savings  :: $     171
Emergency        :: $      00

Total Savings      :: $   171

We had over $1000 in this earlier this year, but a vet bill for major surgery wiped it all out. So now we have a little. But a little is better than nothing!

April 2013 :: Goals

Our goal for April is to pay $2,700 toward our debt. Taking into account the interest that will be charged ($412) , the net will be $2,298.

So our totals at the end of  April should be:

Credit Card Debt $  17,141.96
Taxes Owed $        00.00
Car Loan #1 $    8,829.19
Car Loan #2 $  14,709.19
Tuition $      705.66
Personal Loans $        00.00
Total Debt * $ 41,386.00

*does not include school loans

And now for the Savings Goals – at the end of  April, we aim to have:

Regular Savings    :: $   325
Emergency           :: $   550

Total Savings      :: $   875

According to Quicken, our debt-free date is :: October 2015.

March 2013 :: Report

Debt Reduction

Here is where we were after 3.31.2013:

Credit Card Debt               :: $    17,924.96
Taxes Owed                   :: $            00.00
Car Loan  #1                    :: $       9,381.81
Car Loan  #1                    :: $     14,949.50
Tuition                           :: $       1,705.66
Personal Loans                 :: $           00.00

Total Debt*                        ::  $ 43,683.62

*does not include school loans

Yes. It is difficult to watch that total go up. But we really did our best to get every last mile out of my old car (yay for getting past 190K miles!) and it was time. So, now I have a safe car, with good gas mileage to get us around. This is life.


Guess which category we struggled with? Yup. Food. Sigh…

We also had a lot of pre-summer camp fees to pay for registration, so there was a bit of spending there, but we’ve got that budgeted, so it isn’t like we weren’t prepared.


Where we landed at the end of March:

Regular Savings  :: $     165
Emergency        :: $      00

Total Savings      :: $   165

That’s $25 less than we wanted and a lot less than we wanted for the Emergency Fund, but the new car purchase impacted quite a bit of that.

Well, Old Bessie died…

I didn’t really name my old Saturn Bessie, but the name always invokes thoughts of an old, tired workhorse who has gone out to pasture. That’s my car…. (or, WAS my car).

I received a text from my husband as I was on the way home from work on the second week of March. It said, “the Saturn is stuck in 2nd. Luckily, I am almost home.” [CLARIFICATION: This is after two years of constant repairs and the last major issue being that the computer was no longer talking to the cooling system (a $1,500 repair) and the car was overheating every time it was turned on and it kept blowing holes in the radiator and cooling tank . We were filling it full of water every day just to get it to run, and there were some transmission issues cropping up at the same time, but we were trying to eke out every last mile because we knew that the repairs were hovering around $4,000 and we just didn’t have the cash.]

Yup. It was truly stuck in gear and after arduously pushing it in reverse down our driveway, we finally got it to the mechanic and awaited the call…

…time of death 12:57pm.

When the mechanic says, “We had to restart the diagnostic computer two times to get all of the error and repair codes from your car because there were so many that it overloaded the system. We’re not going to do any work on your car because there really is no point,” it is time to turn off the machine and say good-bye.

After 10 years, 11 months, 190,000+ miles, we wish you well Bessie!

And HELLO Sage!

I DID name the new (to me) car this time. My kids thought it would be cool🙂

We shopped and did research for 4 days and Carmax was the one who came through for us again. We got a low-mileage, older car (still under warranty, though) for under $15,000. It doesn’t have a lot of frills compared to most cars out there, but it is the nicest car I have ever had (Power windows!!!), so I am pleased. So, please welcome our new arrival, our 2009 Hyundai Sonata.

And $15,000 of new debt (pppfffffffftt)…

UPDATE: Thanks to Beth, I realized that I hadn’t given the full picture about the state of the car. It had no trade in value and it had major electrical, transmission and cooling system issues that were beyond what we could afford to repair. I’ve clarified above – thank you, Beth!🙂