Budget overhaul and spending rein-in

March 16, 2012 at 9:19 am (monthly budget, overspending, things I bought)

March is here and half over. I’ve been thinking a lot about my finances and money and spending in the last few weeks. I’m also ready to recover from my move and all the extraneous spending that I’ve been involved in. I’ve been playing with my personal debt payoff calculator that I built in excel. I tweak it and update it as I send in payments to my car loan and my SBA loan, and it’s really keeping me focused on a semi-daily basis if I’m on track (news: I’ve been slipping, so need to readjust!). I’m also trying to rein in my enthusiasm about spending. Moving is over. No more excuses to eat out so much or have preprepared foods (ie, more expensive, less nutritious). I also have to get myself into a new regular routine, both financially, but also physical and social. In a way, moving was like a blank check – I gave myself an allowance to go out and spend money on food more than I should have. I used the excuse of going out with all my friends regularly (and separately, ie, more often and thus more expensive!) for a bite to eat and to get together. On one hand, it was great, I feel like I am establishing my friendships with people I haven’t had in my life before in this way (2 new friendships developing since the ex left), but on the other, I am not doing it decisively and in line with my budget. So I’ve been overspending.

I also decided to buy myself this absolutely *beautiful* turquoise necklace to the tune of $270. I haven’t bought a piece of jewelry for myself for over 3 years, and the last one was $22! In a way it is symbolic of this time in my life, and I have been wanting to have something new to wear. But again, I have been spending a lot and need to chill out on the spendthrift front!

Because I’ve been spending *a lot* on food and eating out, I decided to really knuckle down this week and use the food I have in my fridge, even if I don’t want it when I’m driving home past the really high-priced/excellent quality supermarket that is close to my place. I also need to decide NOT to eat out unless it’s the weekend. I need to portion my eating out to be once per weekend to keep me in check. Having that as a benchmark/rule should really help me avoid the restaurant overspending and allow it to happen socially as it should be (and not just me being lazy and not wanting to cook).

This coming paycheck next week (I get paid on the 5th and 20th) I have already allocated fully. I realized that I have to readjust how I pay my bills. My old landlord was ok if I gave her rent money after I got paid on the 5th. Then I started paying her online through pop money. That would take up to 4-5 days to clear (if you choose the free/longer payment method). That worked out ok, I was consistent from month to month and she was fine with it on the 9th/10th/or 11th. However my new landlord wants payment by the 1st. Totally reasonable, but I don’t get paid until the 5th.

How to get payment in 5 days earlier? I considered doing a temporary 5 day transfer out of one of my savings funds to tide my checking account over until then, then repay back what I borrowed when my paycheck clears. But then I realized that there was a better option. Instead, I’m going to have to pay sooner, like the previous paycheck. So this coming paycheck (2nd half of March) is now earmarked to pay my April 1st rent. This will cause a little adjustment to my debt payments. I actually calculated what bills were due on which half of the month. I split my regular payments (food, restaurant and gas spending) to be half and half, and realized that it makes the most sense to pay equal payments towards debt on both paychecks. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Paycheck 1:
$225 for food and restaurant spending
$60-$80 in gas
$50 (guestimated as i haven’t gotten a bill yet) for electric
$38.32 for gym membership
$253.11 for car payment
$200 for my car maintenance mini-fund
$33 for my xmas/gift mini-fund
$100 for random spending (housewares, subscriptions, photography spending, extra stuff I want to buy, clothes, etc)
$100 for my vacation mini-fund
$350 towards debt
$18 towards hulu/netflix
Total: $1430

Paycheck 2:
$225 for food/restaurant (same as pc1)
$80 for gas (same as pc1)
$745 for rent (including the $50 storage unit)
$40 for internet
$63 for car insurance
$100 for my SBA autopay to cover monthly payment due
$100 towards stuff (same as pc1)
$350 towards debt
Total: $1703

I usually get paid somewhere around $1500 – $1700.  If I have a smaller paycheck than I’ve allotted for, then I’ll just pay a little less towards debt during that 2 week period, and adjust when I get a higher paycheck. It should average out. In the immediate future, that means I’m going to pay less than I’ve estimated for March, to move up my rent payments.

The other final revision to my spending that I have to take care of in March is paying off the huge dump run fees I incurred when getting rid of ex mr. maven’s treasu..I mean junk. It basically cost me $300. Don’t know if he’ll ever pay me back for it (he’s said he is going to send me money, but that hasn’t happened quite yet). Either way, I need to pay off my credit card before I get charged any fees for it, so I have to bite the bullet and pay it off this month. So due to that, no debt payments for the rest of this month (unhappy face).

I’ll check in again next month or after and see how my budget has adjusted.


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Should I pay for personal training?

January 12, 2011 at 9:41 pm (monthly budget, things I may buy) ()

So here’s the conundrum. I have a lot of weight to lose. I’m just starting back up at a gym. I’ve done it a lot before, so I’m not unfamiliar with what to do, but I’m having trouble putting routines together of what specifically to do.

Do I spend money to purchase personal training sessions to get me set up to do weight routines on my own? Or do I save the money? After all, I am in austerity mode.

3 sessions will cost $129 at 24 hour fitness (my gym). I have extra in the budget for a variety of categories, after my 2011 budget revision. I have $250 for whatever (making art, housey purchases, health, fees, overrun in any other category), though keep in mind that with my emergency fund currently scraping bottom at zero, anything I don’t spend in this area would go straight to filling it up. With only 1 full week into this month’s budget, I know there will be things i’ll need to spend money on during the remainder of the month (remember, my budget officially runs the 5th through the following month’s 4th, which is based on when I get paid, which starts on the 5th).

I think I know what I’m going to do, but I’m curious what other pf-minded folks would do?

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What % are you paying towards debt?

October 30, 2009 at 7:04 am (monthly budget)

I recently created a 10-month average of my budget and expenses and have been having fun playing with the numbers. Including my paychecks, rent reimbursements from my bf (he only pays 1/3 rent) and that yearly IRS refund, my income averages to $3,400 monthly.

Here’s how it works out.

Food = 15%
Bills (rent, utilities, insurance) = 36%
Savings = 2% (my EF had a big chunk in it prior to 2009)
And finally…
Debt = 26% (both minimum payments and extra towards principal)

Kinda fun to see it all laid out on paper.

So what percentage of your monthly budget is for debt payments? To calculate it, add up all your minimum required payments plus any extra you might make. Divide that number by your total monthly income. Move the decimal point two places to the right (ie, multiply by 100) to get the percentage you pay towards debt.

If you are one of the smart, hardworking types that are on the other side of the coin, meaning you have no debt and are saving or investing money, what percentage are you saving/investing?

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$18 for the next week

October 29, 2009 at 10:54 am (bringing lunch, monthly budget) (, , )

I have $18 in my checking account to last me until Nov. 5. Even with a pretty solid budget, here’s how it came to pass: Flu season has already started where I work. I maxed it out and rather than eat into my vacation, I elected to have unpaid days off in my timecard, resulting in a smaller paycheck than usual (by about $200). I’ve been aggressive with my debt and bill paying this month, probably more than I should have been, but I was making up for the last 2 months of no extra debt payments. I think I was also behind on my car insurance and ended up overpaying a month (rather than deduct what I had sent in after their bill made it into the mail).

So last night, I looked at my checking account balance to find only $18! Ugh! And I don’t get paid until next Thursday, 11/5. I did transfer some cash over from my savings account, which I fully plan on replacing when I get paid, in full. However, I also plan on NOT SPENDING MONEY as much as physically possible between now and then.

I’m out of gas, I have some food in the fridge, but no big protein sources (ie, chicken, pork, beef or tofu). I ran out of frozen food entrees in the freezer at work. What’s a gal to do? Well, enter the week of living frugally (much more than I have ever done in the past). It will be even more challenging with my bf being in the same boat (his financial reasons for being broke involve bad spending, no planning, and not debt repayment like me, but the results are the same).

Today I had leftovers. I ate oatmeal that I had kicking around in my desk drawer for breakfast. I plan on bringing more in through the duration. For lunch I had leftover chicken pho soup (Vietnamese chicken soup) and rice and fried tofu from Uwajimaya that I bought yesterday (enough for 3 meals). I have apple, bread and peanut butter. That will last me through the afternoon munchies.

I will be creative and more vegetarian at home for meals. There are a bunch of eggs, I can scramble, make a quiche (we have leeks in the garden p-patch that we haven’t used yet and there’s a rasher of bacon in the fridge that is probably still good inside its paper wrapping). I have a can of chickpeas that I can turn into a pasta dish with cream, onions, and bacon. I will probably have to go buy some carrots to make some split pea soup, and I’ll buy a tub of lettuce from Costco (all should be less than $10). I can make cookies for snacks, got the butter, flour, chocolate chip or preserves (for choc chip or thumbprints). I have lots of bulk grains and legumes. I don’t have a ton of fresh veggies though. I think I can scramble a can of tuna for lunch tomorrow, or maybe I’ll do baked potatoes, which are always filling and warming on these cold days. I think I still have ramen left over from a case bought at Costco.

I put $15 of gas in my truck and will not allow myself to buy a coffee, go out to lunch or dinner, drive anywhere unnecessary that might use my precious ½ tank of gas, or use my credit card at all. I may have to dip into my partial savings, but as I mentioned above, my next month’s bills will be lower by about $90 due to my overpayment.

ARGH, bad timing, but the lessons are good ones to take to heart.

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Budget check-in

October 26, 2009 at 10:51 am (monthly budget) ()

I’ve caught up on my budget for the last few months, after ignoring it recently (you’ll notice my recent hiatus). I did a significant check-up this weekend seeing where I was at, and realized I’ve been budgeting for about a year now! I have been tracking my expenses for longer, but November 2008 is when I started my first full month of budgeting.

I averaged out everything that I spend and came to a few realizations:

My budget is pretty accurate

My budgeted amounts for each category are pretty spot on. They may be a little high or low, but I’m able to, after a full year, see what needs to be raised or lowered a smidge. For example, I had $40/month budgeted for home expenses. I scrounge a lot of materials from work and from other places (I live in an industrial area) and I don’t need to buy a lot of kitchen things. I have always invested in that, since I cook so much, and I’m not young, so I have pretty much what I need. I’ve been spending more like $20, so I’m going to cut it to $25 for next year. It’s nice to have a year’s spending to use as a benchmark.

Not much to cut

There are 2 catagories that I can potentially reduce in order to spend more on debt-reduction – food and photography. I spend waaay too much on food and restaurants. A lot of that comes from being the primary shopper – I get food for me and often my boyfriend, but he rarely contributes to the small scale food shopping (that $15-$30 spending that happens 1-2 times per week). It’s been difficult to get reimbursed for this, and I’ve decided to just let it slide. It’s not worth the tension, since I don’t think the resolution is changeable. So I’m just going to let it be as it is. However, I have been making positive strides in using what I have in the fridge, even if I’m bored with it, and want something else. I’ve definitely been cutting back the restaurant spending a bit, but there’s always room for improvement.  It helps that my bf is under a money crunch right now, so he’s also much less willing to eat out. Yeah all around.

Photo expenses are also much higher than I’ve estimated them to be. I came to realize in the last 2-3 months that I need to scale back or fully commit to doing photography. I’m right in the middle right now. I think I am going to pull back and focus on debt and my health in this coming year, so I plan on spending much less on photo projects. I’m not going to push to have shows as much. I’m not going to take classes. I’m not going to get things framed. I’m going to rest on my laurels a bit, simply my life, lower my expenses, and reduce my stress and project load. That’s the plan.

Missing a category

I realized that I don’t have a category for health, medical, or grooming, so I’m going to make one. I get haircuts every 2-3 months. That’s $50, at least 4x per year, so $200. I have some procedures I’ll need done this coming year, so I need to plan on having larger out of pocket expenses. Dental work. And my IUD needs to be removed ($500, not sure if insurance covers), and then new birth control. I should probably build up about $900-$1000/year for this category I’m thinking. It may be enough some years, but not enough in others. So I will need to put in $100/month and save it for the inevitable expense.

I’ll be updating my mini-funds soon to take out the photo category and add a health fund.

All in all, here’s a real quick overview:

Monthly income average: $3300
Monthly budget average: $2800
Monthly debt payment average: $400 on fixed minimum payments, $500 on extra payments, $900/month extra.

Have fun

I last thing I realized. It’s unrealistic (for me personally) to expect myself to stick to the budget and not spend extra on occasion. I might buy a piece of art, or go on a trip, or throw a party (I know, I know, not necessary expenses, but a small splurge here and there on occasion is not always a bad thing). I need to have some extra spending money set aside. I’m not the most frugal of people, and I don’t think I can maintain that type of attitude for more than 2-3 months at a time. So I’ve decided I need to have about $100 or so every month to spend for fun. Going out with a girlfriend for happy hour, going to a spa, driving to Portland for the weekend, something like that.

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Am I on track?

April 25, 2009 at 2:36 pm (monthly budget)

How much do I need to pay towards my debt each month to reach my payoff goal of May 2014? I tallied up the number of months. If I started making payments in December 2008, that will be 66 months of payments. My total starting debt was $45,117. So I will need to pay $684 per month to stay on track.


My monthly budget is:

$150 for SBA (all interest, plus a ‘lil extra for an annual fee)

$200 for Personal Line (interest currently $70/month)

$100 for Discover (0% interest)


$450 total paid – $170 in interest payments = 280 paid towards principal in my budget.


I would need to pay $684 – $280 already paid = $404 monthly extra to stay on track.


I am currently paying about $400 a month. I have been wondering and thinking of increasing my payments, since I think I can, to $500 monthly extra.


As I continue to pay down my loans, my interest rates will continue to diminish and more of my budgeted debt payments will go towards the principal and thus help pay it down faster.


Let’s see how I’ve been doing so far… I’ve been paying down my debt since December. That’s 5 months including April. I should have paid $3,420 to be on track. I have currently paid off $3,357 – that’s $63 short! Not bad! I can still contribute additional money this month, too, as the month is not yet over.


I feel pretty good about this. I have saved my emergency fund, I continue to save up for larger yearly expenses every month, and I have bought some dearly needed larger ticket items in the last few months that I couldn’t put off any longer. Even with my restaurant overspending, I’m still doing quite well. I know that if I tighten the belt I can pay it down ever faster! My budget is pretty accurate and my spending is within my means. My debt payoff plan is on track, established, and maintainable. Things are looking good! It could be the spring weather, but it’s always good to check in and see how plans are progressing.


Have a great weekend all!

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Whoops! budget adjustment

February 5, 2009 at 7:39 am (monthly budget)

So I have this big involved plan to shift my debt payments to the day I deposit my first paycheck of the month (on the 5th). so that I don’t run short before my next income happens, and so I can put every possible penny towards it. The thing I forgot to think about is that my budget should now run from the 6th of the current month through the 5th of the following month, not ending on the last day of the month!!!

After all, how do you track your monthly expenses and such if you’re paying for things 4 days after the monthly budget closes? So d’oh! I’m going to start February’s budget tomorrow, 2/6, since that’ll be the day my first income is availble in my checking account.

And as a side note, due to my computer purchase and payoff in January, I didn’t really have enough extra to do a debt payment after all. I put $125 towards savings, paid a ginormous credit card bill to pay off the full balance incurred during the previous month, than adjusted some of my bill paying to cover February bills. That forward bill-paying adjustment means that I didn’t have anything extra to pay this month, but watch out for next month! Oh, and instead of putting $350 towards my mini-fund savings (pet, car, gifts, clothes, photo funds), I only had $250, so I’m $100 short. Oh well, but it’s only for January.

Have a good day all!

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January 2009 budget – Part I

February 1, 2009 at 9:46 pm (monthly budget) (, , , , )

This is part 1 of my January budget.

Still working out the kinks, but the numbers are in for the month. I am realizing that my food spending is always going to be my biggest challenge. I also decided that any money not spent in the budget is going to be put in little mini-funds for a few select categories. If I go over in restaurant spending, that overflow will have to come out of the leftovers (to stay with the food theme :), so while I hope to put $1200 towards the car for the year, I may not always be able to put down $100 (the monthly budget for that category) each month as savings, or whatever is left unspent for the month. I think this is going to be the best system for me to have savings that are not  the emergency fund, and are readily available for miscellaneous spending that I expect to have throughout the year.

With that decision made (whew!), here’s my results for the month. Overspending is shown in red. 😦

Category Spent Budgetted
Food $317 $350
Restaurant $123 $100
Gas $101 $90
Bills $1,202 $1,190
Credit Payments $388 $400
Pets $16 $115
Coffee $44 $25
Liquor $15 $45
Entertainment $14 $25
Photo $0 $50
Clothes $0 $40
Fees/Subscriptions $0 $30
Home $10 $40
Car $6 $120
Gifts $26 $40
Unexpected $14 $0
Total Budget $2,250 $2,700

A few things of note: I realized that I don’t have anything set aside for medical necessities (like emergency items from the drug store, or a co-pay if I need to go to the doctor). I don’t really want to put MORE money into my budget; it’s already fairly high, so I think I’ll just let those unexpected, unbudgetted spendings come out of the overall unspent money that I was planning on saving. I don’t ever expect to spend EVERYTHING in my budget in any given month. I mean, I should be at least $300-$500 under, always, for all categories.

I’ve also decided I’ll need to save money in the following categories: car (for large repairs), gifts (xmas 2009!), clothes (expensive shoes or a coat next winter), photo (see my previous post on my upcoming art show for an explanation on framing costs), and pet (for vet visits).

Here’s my entire income/spending layed out:

Income $3437 $3437 starting
Budget $2600 $837 left over
Snowflakes $0 $837 left over
Debt Payment 1
$1065 -$228 overspent
Debt Payment 1(Line of Credit principal) $0 -$288 overspent
Savings $125 -$353 overspent

 As you can see, I “overspent” quite a bit this month. I had $400 in my checking account to start, plus a little extra in cash, so I’m not actually in trouble, but this was a particularly expensive month due to my laptop purchase and my FSA spending ($300 which will be reimbursed shortly).

My goal is to have about a $400 checking account balance outside of the budget, so when I get my FSA claim check for $300, it will probably stay in the checking account rather than go towards debt. So I may not be able to make any extra debt payments this month, dangnabit.

Part 2 will go into an explanation of the why and how my spending is as it is (ie, my excuses for overspending :).

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