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.

 

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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!

Credit Karma :: Update – 1.8.11

Well, it is a brand new year, right???

So with that in mind, I thought it was time to check in to Credit Karma and see where my score was at in the scheme of things. What I found was that it went from:

754

to:

781

This is feeling pretty good, I have to say!
They have also introduced a few other scores – you can read more about them on their website, but the one that caught my eye was VantageScore. The site says that:
VantageScore: The Next Generation of Credit Scores

VantageScore is a new credit scoring model created by America’s three major credit reporting agencies to support a truly consistent and accurate approach to credit scoring. This new score provides lenders with nearly identical risk assessment across all three credit reporting companies. Your VantageScore on Credit Karma was calculated based on information in your TransUnion credit report and follows a familiar academic scale for ease of understanding: A (901-990), B (801-900), C (701-800), D (601-700), F (501-600).

This scale runs from 500-990, versus the Transrisk score above, which is 300-850. So, with all of this in mind, VantageScore is:

819

That’s a B. It sounds like this is supposed to give a better idea of a score than just the Transrisk, so I’ll keep track of both on here.

**I am not paid by Credit Karma to post about their product, nor am I receiving any goods or materials from them. I am simply interested in my score and being accountable to my readers, and this seemed like the most economical way to keep on top of my score.

Which way to go?

I owe a ton of our success to the MS Money program that was part of my laptop package in 2006. With that program, we were able to set up a budget, make debt reduction goals, project cash flow and download our accounts regularly to make sure that we were on top of our bills.

Well, of course, once we find something that works, it is going to become obsolete…

Microsoft not only stopped producing updates, but it is no longer supporting the editions that are out there, which means even my password no longer works to log me in. Yikes.

So, I’m on the hunt for the program that comes the closest.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Produces a bill schedule
  • Allows to link to online accounts to download transactions
  • Has a debt reduction program that can calculate interest and “paid-off” dates
  • Ability to project cash flow
  • A budget program that has easy to designate categories
  • Not too expensive 😉
  • Not based online so I can work on the budget without having to find internet service

Any thoughts? Am I asking for too much?

Putting your mouth where your money is

It seems like every month our report says the same thing — “we spent too much money on food” — and you are probably as tired of reading that as I am of writing it. I’ve been looking for the best way that we can stick to our Weight Watchers plan (that’s right – the hubby has finally signed up – high five!!!) AND our budget.

So imagine my glee when, during my normal coffee-break feed read, I saw that good ol’ Beks at Blogging Away Debt posted about a lovely online service that helps with meal planning. She shared all about her experiences with E-Mealz and how to get 10% off the subscription! I went to the site straightaway and lo, and behold, there it was…a meal plan with Weight Watchers points already calculated!!! [cue the angels]

Let me tell you why I’m so excited about this! Each week, my husband and/or I spend about 2 hours planning our meals for the week. That includes pouring through cookbooks, calculating points, making up the shopping list and checking the pantry for already existing items. For $1.25/week, we just have to print the posted menus for the week, check the pantry and go to the store – they even have the shopping list sorted by aisle, just like I do!

Don’t know about you, but as a part-time grad student, who also works a career job full-time, I could use those two hours/week.

So we’ve signed up and I’ll let you know how it goes!!!

SAVE TIME AND MONEY WITH E-MEALZ MEAL PLANS

Note: I have received no money or services from E-mealz – they don’t even know I exist.

I said “No, thank you”

Recent reports say that more people are telling their banks and credit card companies, “no thank you for your ridiculous ‘courtesy’ of allowing me to go over my limit so you can charge me more.”

Read more at this MSNMoney article: Consumers tell banks – Decline my Card!

That’s right! And I’m one of those who have asked my bank to DECLINE me if I attempt to use my debit card beyond my available balance.

I’d rather deal with the shame and scorn of the cashier than heft over the $35+ charge for each item over the limit.

Sure, I know you might be saying, “but you should know what your balance is at all times and shouldn’t charge outside of your budget.” I *hear* what you are saying, but I have to point out two things: (1) I can only be responsible for me and while my husband is awesome in many ways, he is an “over-buyer.” It is not completely unexpected to hear in our home, “but honey, I’m not sure that I needed to try each flavor of those snacks, even if they were $1 each,” and, (2) we went from years of lots of debt and no budget, to less debt (over $30K less) and a sometimes-too-flexible budget in 17 months – the process of staying to a “strict” budget is just that – a process.

So, I’ll thank the banks to help hold me to a stricter standard and learn my lessons without costing us more money…they can take my pride (but they can’t take my FREEEEEDDDDOOOOOOM!) 🙂