Cutting Costs ($89,601)

In January I really started noticing my excessive spending. I haven’t been updating my budget like a good Doobie, so I hadn’t included any wiggle room, so I was going way over. I didn’t have a lot of room to expand my spending categories, while still saving what I wanted to, so I decided to see what fixed costs I could cut:
Cell Phone: My contract is up at the end of February. I’m thinking of switching to Ting or Straight Talk, and giving it a shot for three months with my existing phone. I’ve definitely noticed that my phone is slower, and losses battery quickly, but I could spend a lot of my train time reading my kindle (library books or Prime rentals?)
Taxes: Our house is a two family, and the couple we bought it from didn’t live here when they sold it. Our town has a homestead exemption, which reduces your taxes, if you live in the home. Because the sellers didn’t have the exemption for this house, we couldn’t grandfather into their exemption, but we did file as soon as we could this year. I expect the tax portion of our mortgage payment will go down at least $50 a month once the new tax year starts (first payment is due in July). I’ll have to call the mortgage servicer on this to let them know once we officially have the exemption. I will probably continue paying the same amount on the mortgage, with the extra going to principal.
Car Insurance: I haven’t driven my car in two weeks. The reason for this is twofold: 1) My car needs some fixing, particularly new brakes, so I don’t feel too comfortable driving it now, particular in snowy conditions (and it’s harder to do the needed fixing in said conditions, as we don’t have a garage) and 2) My man brings me to and from the train (in his fuel efficient car) to save the $4 a day in parking charges. In spite of this, I still pay over $70 a month ten months out of the year for car insurance! The good news is that the two months I don’t pay are February and March (first and last months of the policy). The bad news is I called the insurance company, and they said they couldn’t reduce my rate any further, and that it was so high because of an incident in May 2012. But that incident will drop off in May. I asked if they could reduce my rate in May, but she said I’d have to wait until the next policy year. Two things I got from this: 1) it doesn’t hurt to ask and get the information, and 2) I will likely be switching my insurance company in late May.
Credit Report: I’m signed up for freecreditreport.com. It’s not free, y’all. But I’ve really liked tracking my progress, and it cost me $10 a month. Lo and behold! The charge was $20 this month. Apparently I had been reduced down to the $10 fee for a promotional period of two years (the last time I went to cancel), and that period is up. So I called to cancel, and thought, “I don’t really need to spend $10 a month on this anyway.” They offered to further reduce to $5 a month going forward for another time period. I gladly said yes, and added a notice in my phone calendar to cancel/renegotiate to keep my rate before it goes up again next time.

Credit Cards: I have a trusty Capital One card that was my first ever credit card. I went to cancel it in college, and was convinced not to because of the potential effect on my credit score. I’ve put another reminder in my phone to call and either: 1) get my annual fee waived, or 2) cancel. I have one charge on this card a month, which gets paid off monthly (so don’t even bother trying to reduce my interest rate instead of waiving the fee, C1), and the card has no benefits to it (no cash back or miles, nothin’). This one will save me the annual fee that surprises me every. single. year.

Proactiv:  Sad news–in spite of the fact that I’m over 30 years old, I still have the skin of a teenager (and I don’t mean I don’t have wrinkles).  I’ve cut this one out before, and my skin immediately started getting much worse, so I’m resigned to using it, oh, I don’t know, FOREVER.  That said, I have plenty of product from my last two or three shipments, that I can live without paying for it for a few month, and sign up again when I’m running low.

That’s all the cuts I can think of now (I’m in a two year contract on my cable, and getting a pretty good deal if we want to keep it), but I’m open to any other ideas! I’d also like to work on my grocery and food budget, but that one may be a little harder to plan, organize and execute.

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February Recap! ($97,418)

I think this is the latest I’ve ever been with my monthly recap.  I’m usually so excited to post it, and get started on the next month’s budget.  This is actually still the case, but I was occupied with the man friend this weekend, and stuck at work late last night–getting me home right around my bed time.  Hence no recap, but better late than never, right?

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Boom! Over $1,900 in student loan PRINCIPAL payments in February!  Next month my auto and transport expense will be way down–it will only be gas and (if necessary) parking.  My paycheck should reflect my commuter rail deduction this Friday, since I had money on my computer card to buy my pass this month.  A lot of money will probably go to food this month, since I took my boyfriend out to dinner on Sunday night, and am hoping to take my sister to dinner before she has her baby.

Other than my good progress on student loans, I was pretty bad with the staying within budget thing.  I spent a lot on “other” and paid for a 2013 doctor’s visit.  The good news is I’ve planned for my hair expense this weekend, so I’m more prepared for my “other.”

My other budget overages:

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The food and dining overage is mostly the coffee shop budget bust.  I’m calling the restaurants overage offset by being under budget on alcohol and groceries.  But There’s 5% cash back on Starbucks purchases, so I loaded my card with $50 twice.  I’m justifying this with the extra points, and will probably reload before the quarter is up, but starting in April I need to work on making my own coffee way more often.

Additional iTunes purchases–I’ve increased this budget for March, and accepted that I’m not staying within $10.  We’ll see if $15 satisfies my need for new 80s music.

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Student loan interest is kind of a crapshoot–how much I pay can really vary depending on when in the month I make my payments.  Daily interest on $70,000 can make for a lot of variation.  The budget underage on gas probably has a little to do with a combination of a short month and timing of gas purchases.  Kind of a similar deal for parking in that I happened to not have to drive up as often–though this is partially due to finding another free parking train station.  In April I’m having $20 put on a debit card pre-tax to pay for parking on an as-needed basis.  This one won’t be a monthly deduction, but I’ll have another $20 deducted when the balance starts to get low.

I didn’t need Proactiv because my skin is clear!  I’m sorry–that was a blatant lie, I just tend to get billed three out of every five months because of my current delivery schedule.  Clear skin–ha!  Also, do people judge me for having an alcohol budget?  It really actually means trivia, which is more of an entertainment expense. Whatever.

I’m getting two TiVo charges this month, apparently. Hence the big buffer in the Movies & TV category.  I also haven’t rented an Amazon movie in a while.

My clothing budget was two pairs of work pants from eBay.  Money well spent. This month’s clothing budget is already blown on two pairs of shoes and five (FIVE!) pairs of J.Crew flip flops.  They’re $22 flip flops, on sale for $12. So I bought three pairs for me and two for my sister–because two separate people paying $8 shipping charges on flip flops is ridiculous. She’ll probably pay me back, but I’m fine with gifting the $25. I’m so charitable.  J.Crew wedge flip flops are kind of my thing.  I hope no one tells me that I’m not a lifeguard anymore and I have to wear adult shoes sometimes…

As for the March Budget, I haven’t broken out my federal loan payment into principal and interest yet (because they refuse to post my payment), but I’ve made $1,750 in payments out of $1804 principal and $676 interest payments budgeted for the month.  Instead of $2,480 my total payments this month will probably be $2,600.  I’m not mad, but I am going to try to stay under $4,000 in spending the month (my actual Mint budget is $3,963).  Or rather, if I go over, I only want it to be because of additional loan payments, and not because of additional spending.  I’m hoping for an expense reimbursement and an insurance dividend this month–both of which I’m hoping to send on UG3.

Goal Tracking (from 2/14/2014 post)

  • May 5: Pay off UG3 (current balance $2,557) – Current balance of $1,110 — Planning on paying off with my April payment
  • June 15: Debt Balance under $100,000 (current balance, about $106,000) — Now I’m around $104,000.  Still waiting for my federal payment to post and my updated balance on UG3 to be reflected.  If I’m paying off another $1,600 in April and have an extra paycheck in May I think this is easily doable, possibly even before May is over.
  • July 31: Pay off UG4 (current balance $3,346) — If I maintain my payment from this month through the summer I’ll pay this one off with a payment of around $100 in July.
  • November 30:  Pay of UG5 (current balance $4,963) — I think getting this taken care of in October is a better stretch goal.

That’s all I’ve got for you tonight–sorry it’s so disorganized and incoherent.  Better my blog posts than my finances, right?

Work From Home Wonder ($99,805)

Quick little post today:  I worked from home today, because of the snowstorm.  I had a call at 8am, earlier than I typically am in, and had something I was working on until an hour and a half after I normally leave, so I worked over two hours extra today–but was home and work-free over an hour early!  Hopefully I’ll be able to do this more often soon enough.

I get my first standard paycheck on Friday.  When I say standard I mean, the one I expect will be the same going forward–will all of my deductions taken out.  Hopefully with the same amount of money to spend each month I can be more consistent with my budget and, more importantly, more consistent with my spending within that budget.

But for now I’m probably going to spend some money on baby shower gifts…but don’t worry, I planned for it.  

January Recap! ($98,670)

Still/back under $100,000!  And I did pretty great this month, if I do say so myself.  This is largely due to an extra paycheck because of the (in name and salary only) job switch.

The pretty picture:

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Student Loans!

I paid off $2,567 in PRINCIPAL this month.  All of the “Fees and Charges” pie is interest paid on loans.  I think this is smaller than usual because of the timing of my payments vs. the payments last month.

I spent $632 on auto/transport this month.  Some awesome things about February:  my auto insurance is split into 10 monthly payments, so I don’t have a payment next month; there’s $84 I don’t have to pay.  It’s a mutual insurance company, which means I’m also expecting a dividend payment of about $150 or so.  My employer also just announced a discount program on car insurance, so I may look into that to save more money (though a friend of mine is my insurance broker, so I may stay where I am, and I kind of like the dividend thing).  I am getting rid of my towing plan–only $20 annual, but I have AAA, so I don’t need it anymore.  Knock on wood, but it’s also been MONTHS since I locked myself out of my still-running car (yes, I’ve done this more than once).  February will also be the last month that my train pass will have to be purchased completely with after-tax dollars.  Probably another $20 in savings each month.  Lastly, I drove to the farther train station much more than usual this month, resulting in more gas and parking spending, which I hopefully won’t repeat in February.

Food: $429 this month, about $300 in groceries.  This is probably the smallest amount I’ve ever spent in this category.  I need to reign in my pretzel purchases (maybe with more snacks for the train), but I won’t beat myself up too much.

It’s pretty rare that I have a separate pie slice for health and fitness.  This is from a doctor’s bill at the beginning of the month, and a prescription that I’ve submitted a reimbursement for (I didn’t have the account number information for my new health/prescription plans).  I have another doctor’s bill that I’ll be paying in early February from the same appointment (one for lab testing and one for the appointment and procedure itself), so the budget there will also be unusually high.

The “Other” and “Shopping” categories are what I really want to work on next month.  I spent $45 at Walmart in the middle of the month, and have no idea what I bought.  None.  I do know that it wasn’t groceries, though I sometimes do my grocery shopping there.  I spent another $40 on Amazon (light bulbs, a lint lizard that I haven’t tried yet, but is pretty necessary for some spaces in the house, and a paper towel holder to mount on my island).  But seriously, what did I buy at Walmart?  OH! I bought an over-the-toilet storage unit for some additional much needed storage space in my newly-organized apartment.  I feel better now.  The phone bill and my Netflix/TiVo are monthly bills, but tickets to a Red Sox game, and a paint your own pottery night added an extra $120 this month.  I might be spending a big chunk on some concert tickets this month, so this category probably won’t be going down too much in February.

In summary, I’m pretty happy with this month’s spending and debt progress.  I’ve already scheduled a loan payment for February, and I’m hoping that moving the money out of my account early in the month will prevent me from spending.  I’ll post more on the February budget this week!

No Net Worth Today…

I don’t have a net worth update tonight.  My loan is showing up as paid, but I don’t think the money is out of my account yet, and a very large credit card charge hasn’t reared its ugly head yet.  And I’m too tired (and it’s too close to my bed time) for me to make the necessary mental adjustments. 

I don’t have much to say tonight, but I don’t get to post from a computer as often as I’d like, which means less opportunities for pretty Mint.com pictures.

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I’m so very happy with my month so far–hopefully that isn’t spoken too soon.  I’m over my $0 budget on coffee shops this month–I went to Dunkin prior to a house thing, to the tune of $5 and change.  Not a life ender or a budget killer for that matter.  I haven’t made $1,200 in planned student loan payments yet–I believe one is pending for tomorrow and the other for Wednesday.  There’s one more for tomorrow that kills my second undergraduate loan. This is already showing up as paid in my loan tracking, but not in my bank account.  That bit is a little over $600.  Moral of the story:  I expect “education” to take up 75% of the pie by month-end. (Here’s the educational lesson kids, don’t take out loans to go to law school)

There’s a lot of spending here on “health and fitness.”  I don’t have new insurance cards yet, and instead of getting harassed when my old insurance backdates its cancellation, I told the man at the Consumer Value Store to treat it as though I didn’t have insurance.  It took him a really long time to understand this concept. So once I get the new insurance information I’ll be the one doing the harassing, about getting reimbursed.

Things are going swimmingly on the food front.  I have a two leftover mac and cheese meals, and three chicken stew meals in the fridge.  I’m planning on work lunch (maybe paid for, maybe not) on Tuesday and going out for trivia with the manfriend on Tuesday and Wednesday.  But so far I’ve spent $0 in my Restaurants and Alcohol/Bars budgets, so I should still be within budget after the week.  I’m hoping to bring plenty of snacks and food with me for my commute home, so I don’t feel the need to order a full meal while we’re at trivia. We’ve got more dinner plans on Monday, but that’s to use a long-held gift card.  (Free food!)  So far I’ve spent less than $130 on groceries this month.  I will be buying more milk from Cumbies on my way home tomorrow, but other than that I’m holding strong to my once-a-week grocery shopping commitment.

I’m too tired for further thought tonight.  If only I could find a way to be too tired to spend money.  Good night all, and happy budgeting!

December Recap! ($103,396)

Ugh!  I did an extraordinarily bad job budgeting this month. Or, rather, staying within said budget.  Here’s my spending breakdown from the month (ALL THE PRETTY COLORS!):

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Education and Fees & Charges are (rightfully) big chunks of this not-so-tasty pie, but they should account for over half–they don’t.  I spent a tiny bit less on principal and a tiny bit more on interest this month–should just be reflective of when the payment was made in the month (I wish I got paid semi-monthly instead of bi-weekly, so these could always be the same):

Principal Payments:

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Interest Payments:

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That makes “Shopping”, “Kids”, “Personal Care” “Auto and Transport” and “Other” the big spending categories.  Some of the shopping was Christmas presents, but, um, not most of it.  I bought $160 Uggs at the beginning of the month (I love them, but I don’t know if I love them $160 worth), and about $150 at Old Navy that was for myself.  Damn you Black Friday.  Toward the end of the month I spent $325 on eBay–I bought two purses to celebrate the new job.  I’m also thinking about buying a Spin bike, but if that’s all I do for celebratory purchases, and don’t inflate my lifestyle too much, I’ll consider this a victory.

I spent $600 at Babies R Us.  The stroller and pack-and-play my sister registered for were both on sale, and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to save over $200 (again–Damn you Black Friday!).  I would have spent this money (and more on the shower and smaller baby gifts) eventually, but wasn’t planning for it in December.

The $120 on getting my hair did [BLONDER — and way shorter] was planned, but sadly fell in with a month of crazy spending.

I spent way more on parking than usual this month–for two reasons.  Reason numero uno:  bought a book of five parking passes for $100 at the new work building.  Because $20 a day in the city is a bargain when I need to drive in.  See: the day I spent $35 on parking when I went in late for a doctor’s appointment last month. I also went out to watch a football game with a friend on Sunday and spent $40 on parking.  I hadn’t seen her in a while, and I’d cancelled on her the previous weekend–but if I’d realized I’d have to spend $40 to park initially, I wouldn’t have made that plan. Lesson learned.

Most of the transactions in the $500 or so in “Other” were planned: life insurance, credit report, phone, (2) TiVo.  It also includes about $80 in Christmas presents…for my dog.  And a doctor’s visit co-pay.  Lastly, it includes $120 at staples, $80 of which is for the biggest piece of crap filing cabinet on the planet. Which is getting returned.

So the budget page looks something like this:

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This actually doesn’t even capture the “Everything Else” category, which is over by about $1,400… Yeah. Though a small point in my defense: about $200 of my food and other random costs were reimbursed from job two.

January should bring more income and–hopefully–less irresponsible spending on my part.  To be continued I guess.

De-Motivated ($104,234)

I’m not sure if I’ve been slacking on posting because I’ve been slacking on my budget, or if I’ve been slacking on my budget because I’ve been slacking on posting. We have a classic “chicken or the egg” situation here.

This month I spend almost $600 on non-Christmas gifts.  All in baby gifts for my future nephew.  It’s money that I would have spent eventually, though I probably shouldn’t have spent it right now. I got an email that they had some things 50% off, and I figured I’d check the registry to see if there was anything there on crazy sale, and I got over $100 off on one of the big items they registered for, something to go with it, and another registry item that was on sale.  

I’ve also been doing more spending than usual on myself.  I don’t know if this means I have to be less stingy in other months to prevent myself from large chunks of purchasing a month or two down the road, or if I should plan for quarterly or semi-annual clothing splurges.  Most of what I bought is clothing that can be worn to work–which I do need more of–along with a needed scarf for myself and some gifts for the boy.  I’m a little nervous about the gift giving thing.  I’m worried my gifts are too practical and come off as less “thoughtful,” and that he’s going to come up with something super sweet that I can’t match with “Here’s some socks I got you.”

I’ve done virtually no food shopping for myself this month.  So far I’ve managed to avoid spending money on lunches, but I haven’t been able to avoid the delicious pretzel cart, and I’ve bought coffee more times than I’d like to share.  I did spend $100 on an ice cream party, along with several other purchases that are reimbursable, so I’ll be depositing that $200 check today.  Christmas related expenses I still have are: one more small gift for the boy, some stocking stuffers, money for my parents’ presents from me and my sister, and some Christmas gathering food.

The good news is that with all this money going out, I have had some carry-over in my checking account from being so disciplined in prior months.  So I’m hoping I can still send my usual amount to my federal student loan (even though it routinely says I have nothing due).  Though I have spent a lot of money, I only have another $100 or so in fixed expenses yet to be charged for the month–I just have to be disciplined about not spending on needless food purchases.

The bad news: I’ve spend $3,428 so far this month, with a budget of $3,935.  That’s without a $300 student loan payment posting (I’m guessing on Monday), and includes the spending I was reimbursed.  Doesn’t leave much more room for the above spending, or unavoidable purchases like food (at the grocery store, and not from the pretzel card), so that savings that is hoped for each month won’t be happening this month.

This week has been really crazy for my second job, with the semester ending and some related and unrelated issues.  But all of that ail be completely over on Saturday, so hopefully I’ll get some rest in the four weeks I have off.  I’m hoping this will also mean more time for cleaning my apartment and cooking meals in advance, but we’ll see how that goes.