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!

 

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.

Budget

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.

Savings

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! 🙂

Saving $$$ on Kids Clothing!

So, in the quest to find ways to both save money AND positively impact the environment, we found ThredUp! It is a great way to buy clean, used kids clothes that have gone through a good screening process. 

We’ve been really pleased with the quality. My first order was $39 for eight pieces (and that includes shipping & handling). Plus, they include a bag in each order that you can use to send back your own gently used clothing for credit or cash!

Here is a link if you want to take a look: http://www.thredup.com/r/JED7Z2 

 

Affordable Meal Planning

I’ve posted about meal planning and food costs before because it is our #1 money pit budget-wise – well, “actual-wise” really…

I added a new banner advertisement on the right of this blog because it is something that we have used for health and to keep costs down.

A few years ago, I wrote about e-meals (then it was called e-Mealz) and we were excited to try it out. It was a GREAT time saver, and we found that it did keep us more on track when we were disciplined enough to actually buy all the ingredients in one day and plan during the week. But then we got kids…

And it went on the back-burner.

Then, I started back on Weight Watchers and used the Portion Control version. But then we found out that we had to move to a non-processed diet to help our kids with their special needs.

And it went on the back-burner.

But then…they came out with their “Clean Eating” plan and we were back in business!!!

So, here I am to remind you about them, because I am so pleased that they have adapted so well to what the consumer needs, all while keeping costs down. Click on the banner below if you want more information, and if you try it out, let me know what you think!

eMeals - Easy Meals for Busy People!

I’m back, but without the stabby…

Hey there!

I can’t ever hear the words “I’m back” without seeing Jack Nicholson’s face at the door, so I wanted to clarify that my declaration was not of the murderous variety, but just to let you know that while I’m not going to be able to blog up to the level that I want, I can am going to try to do the monthly updates AT A MINIMUM.

Here are the updates:

  • My husband got a job at the beginning of the year after 10 months of not working! (slightly more income than unemployment, lol)
  • Our adoptions were finalized! (losing our foster care payments, but gaining two special needs kids)
  • I’m on track to graduate this year!
  • Our car is breaking down (my husband is the total champ, filling it with water everyday, instead of paying the $2,000 to get our 11-year-old, 190,000 mile Saturn repaired).
  • We’re hoping to move this summer to a place that has storage and a yard (rental – we’re in no position to buy).

There’s the brief update – thanks for hanging in there if you are still reading!