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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2011 end of year blowout spending recap/2012 the year of change

January 19, 2012 at 8:54 am (credit cards, house, overspending, things I bought)

Warning. You’re about to see what amounts to a TON of excuses. It all starts with a story about changing our living room from carpet to wood floors. Back in the days when Mr. Maven was still in the picture, he had a serious aversion to our hunter green 12 year old carpet. He knew the old 1920s house we rented had hardwood floors underneath. He convinced the landlord (who is pretty nice) to agree to remove the carpet, provided the floors were good enough to be refinished. Part of that process involved moving ALL furniture out of thel iving room into the rest of the house. We live in a 700 sq. ft. house. The living room is by far the largest room.

Ok, that process took a solid 2 weeks. Then since the furniture was out, we used the opportunity to repaint the dingy yellowy-white walls with bad hole repairs done without touchups, and the one dark, wood panelling a bright, fresh white. Trimming, and marking off what not to paint. Multiple coats of primer, then paint, then drying, all with kitties running underfoot. It took a week. I felt like I lived in a hoarder house for 3 weeks. All that climbing over furniture every time I wanted to move around!

Ok, then we moved back INTO the refurbished room. No rug. no place soft to sit on or lie on. All of a sudden, the makeshift furniture I had didn’t quite do the room justice. I ended up buying 2 pieces of furniture. One a really really super awesome 1940s sideboard with mirror. It is soooo pretty. $800. Yikes. Then I replaced a makeshift curio/bookshelf cabinet thing with a better version – it had wide storage underneath to hide some larger art books and music CDs,  and an upper half that was shelved and had doors with decorative glass that kept my prized collection of art ceramics free from dangerous kittens knocking them over. Small antique glass-fronted cabinet? $400.

Oh, and about this time, my computer totally crashed. 3 year old HP laptop, kaput. I had to buy a new laptop, with, ahem, a friendly ex-Microsoft employee helping out with a cheap Microsoft Office (shhh, don’t tell) at seriously reduced costs, for about $750 total.

Add in the absolute craziness of living like a hoarder and the inability to stick to mundane tasks like regularly cooking meals at home because there was NO FRIGGIN’ ROOM to move in the kitchen, and there were some overzealous spending in the grocery/restaurant/pizza front. A few hundred here, surely.

Then finally, oh yes, was a relatively unhappy trip I allowed myself to be talked into going, against my better judgement, and with, unfortunately, a lot of resentment – going with mr. maven to visit his family for thanksgiving. In North Dakota. With our cats, which meant driving, not taking a train. Mr. maven refuses to fly, and no cats on the train, so driving it was. I used 3 days of vacation. I paid for 50% of the gas and motels. I used my car and had to spent a ton of money on maintenance in advance. I had to get an extra oil change, since the whole trip was like 2300 miles (and do you think mr. maven paid for any of the car maintence or chipped in towards wear and tear? I’ll let you deduce that yourselves). Anyway. The whole reason I said I would go, was so that I could meet his mom. His mom lives in Texas but was going to come up to visit the rest of the family at that time. 2 days before we were to leave, we got word she wasn’t going to go. GRRRRR. But at that point, unfortunately, I was committed. And even more unfortunately, I didn’t want to go, didn’t relish the trip, and felt really resentful about spending the money and using my hard-earned vacation time for someone else’s family. Sorry for the big hateful venting here, but I couldn’t say any of this to mr. maven. I can’t say I was a thrill to be around, and you now know how this ends (mr. maven has just moved to ND and I’m now single, which was not because of the trip, but happened chronologically soon after). The cost of this whole trip was about $550.

Anyway, tally up all this spending, and you’ll notice a lot of discretionary spending. This went onto my BECU credit card. I HATED it there. So I paid a ton towards it. I used up my vacation savings. I stripped my EF to pay for it. I used the remaining xmas spending to pay for it (I had a little left over). I also fully raided my kitten fund (at $930) to pay it. I got it down to zero. I was expecting to start refunding the kitten fund, when I he told me he was moving to ND to find work. And taking the kittens with him.

Well, I guess I don’t need to fund for the kittens any longer *sniff*, but you’ll notice, all my mini-funds are fully wiped out. I am starting 2012 from a very low place. Emotionally raw (I’ll get over it), financially drained (at least no credit card debt!), and with a renewed vigor to tackle my remaining debt ( hopefully an average $300 extra per month).

It’s odd to start this year off, when normally you hear people taking stock of their lives, and reflecting. Instead, I’m responding and digging out. I’m gearing up, and figuring out. I have a lot of changes ahead, but I’ll at least be more focused on what’s good for me…and my finances. Maybe that should be my them for the year…CHANGE.

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I couldn’t help it – my newest debt

April 28, 2011 at 9:08 am (things I bought, vehicle)

Remember when I said I would wait to be out of debt before I considered getting a new vehicle? Well follow me along a month ago during my weekend trip down to the Oregon Coast. I wanted a few days to get out of town, take photos (for an upcoming juried show photo submission) and have a mini-vacation.

We drove 750 miles. I had to buy 4 tanks of gas. $215 for a weekend to Oregon. Yikes! It stuck in my craw somethin’ fierce, lemme tell you! I decided on that long drive back, in which I had 6 hours to think about it, how I really really needed a vehicle that had better gas mileage. I didn’t get any dissenting comments from mr. maven, either!

As soon as I got back I started researching. I should also admit that I really truly miss my old subaru, which got totalled in an accident in 2007 (not my fault!!!). So of course, with my requirements: good mileage, rugged, able to go in the mountains, good in snow, and something that I could haul lots of crap and potentially sleep in, well, it should come as no surprise that I ended up with a 2005 Subaru Outback! It’s the prettiest green color “willow green”, has cloth seats, no sun roof, and has just been fully serviced. I ended up buying from a dealer. It cost me more, but they fully detailed it, made sure the mechanics were up to spec (after my inspection at a mechanic, they updated the brakes and did something to the transmission flush fluid or something or other). I did put a little extra, to the tune of $220, in it at the dealer’s mechanic so that it has everything clean and ready and no further maintenance will be needed for 30,000 miles (spark plugs, some other fluid changes, etch). It’s clean, scrubbed, mine, and ready for some serious backcountry trips!

Instead of my current 15/19 mileage (based on what i actually put in the tank), my new vehicle is amazing! I get 21 minimum in the neighborhood, and have gotten 29 on the highway. It’s awesome! I estimated that even if I do nothing but commute to work and do normal driving during a month, I will save $50 (about 1 full tank of gas) per month. If I do any trips, then I should save about $100/month or more. Can’t beat that!

It took me a week of research, and a week of hard looking, but I bought one for $14,800. My main requirements were that it be under 75K miles, NOT turbo (I didn’t want the maintenance, or the reduced MPG), and have heated seats. I was approved for a $40K car loan from my bank, BECU at 3.99% (not that I’d ever spend that much on a vehicle, EVER), but only had to use a portion of that. I ended up using my recent settlement money to pay $6,000 towards it (after fully funding my emergency fund back to $1000 and keeping a few hundred for something fun, yet to be determined). 

I then sold my truck to mr. maven (for him to go hunting and sleeping in – as he told me, it would be a shame to sell it when I just dumped a whole crapload of money on it recently and it has a new clutch. Mechanically it’s been very well taken care of, so it’s in great shape. I decided that any more income I get will go towards my SBA loan, instead of my car loan – which is at a slightly higher rate of 5% (plus an annual fee) – whatever I can do to pay it off quickly, the better.

So don’t be hatin’ – I got a vehicle with 100,000 fewer miles, and significantly better gas mileage (100+ additional miles per tank), and heated seats! I put myself into debt for an extra period of time, but it will be less than a year. I am pleased with my decision and have zero regrets.

That’s all from debtmaven central! Here’s to the growing garden, getting over this nasty cold keeping me home this week, and getting out hiking and the start of biking again this year. Keep healthy and get outside everyone!

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The mother of all clothes sales

January 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm (Being Frugal, things I bought) ()

Went to buy some unmentionables at Macy’s today after work and they were having the mother of all sales. I decided to ONLY go look at the steeply discounted rack and only that rack, for tops, tried them on, and found (2). I decided I would only get them if they were under $11 each. $5.50 and $7.50 each. Wowza. Then, when I was paying for my 2 unmentionables that I absolutely had to have since my last (and only) 2 pair broke on me, and the 2 shirts that were department-store brand new but selling at thrift-store prices, I spied The Sweater.

I had tried The Sweater on 2 months ago and had wanted it desperately then, but could not justify the $85 price tag. I regretfully put it back “until it went on sale.” But I hadn’t seen it since, even looking around xmas time at another location. But they had it here today and it said 60% off. Hmm, not bad! I tried it on to make sure and it was beyond fabulous (still). I checked the price and it was more like 75% off – only $21!!!!! Score. Total damage came to abourt $80. That’s more than my $50 budget, but I also returned something from last month for $35, so I guess technically I’m under my budget. Also, J gave me rent (for December) a few days ago and I haven’t yet put it in the bank, so I paid cash for everything, and it’s not technically going to hit my budget – I have some fudge factors.

I promptly called my girlfriend to go shopping there – they are having an inventory sale to clear out the old to make room for the new and half the store racks are sporting 40%, 50%, 60% or more discount signs. I could not believe my eyes. I honestly had to stop looking, turn my eyes to the pathway and literally march myself oughta there.

I came home and told J and he’s thinking of going tomorrow. I swear, you could buy an entire outfit for $15-$20 if you were careful, an entire new wardrobe for $100-$150!!! Unbelievable.

I’m actually thinking about whether or not I should go back and shop again tomorrow and really go through all the racks. Clothes are never this cheap there. Second opinions?

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I heart Macy’s, a positive customer service experience

December 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm (things I bought) (, )

2010 marked the first time I participated in Black Friday. I had a whole bunch of coupons for Macy’s and some specific quality clothing items I wanted to purchase for my bf plus some bedding we’ve discussed getting for over a year.

I found the perfect duvet cover. It was on sale, check! I had a 15% off coupon for it, check! Out of stock, but they would happily order it for me and ship it at no charge, check! Great, I was on board. I asked the sales clerk to make sure that the sale price was indeed ending the next day, and it would go back to a higher price after black friday. It was, so the time to purchase was right then! (I had a coupon that began the next day for $50 off a $200 purchase, which would be a better rate, but not when it went back to full price.

I went home, happy with my purchase, the cheapest I could finangle and what I thought would be the best price through the end of the year. However, I checked online and their cyber Monday special was even lower, with free shipping. I happened to be shopping the next day downtown Seattle and there was a macy’s there too, that had the duvet cover in stock. Just for a lark, I stopped by to confirm that the price had indeed gone up and that my coupon would not be worthwhile. But the sale price was still in effect! Sales clerk #1 had been wrong. So I could have saved even more money. I called customer service and they were very helpful, but not able to cancel the shipment (it was in process I think). Unfortunately, the online price could not be applied to the store, so it was buy there in the store and get my coupon off and return my shipped item, or just not bother and wait for it to arrive in the mail. I thought about it, and decided I would just use my $50 coupon anyway and return the shipped item when I received it.

When I went to purchase it, the sales clerk (day 2, different store) told me about the friends and family discount of 25%, which ended up being the best option of all. Plus they had it in stock. The only catch, it applied to Dec. 1, and not before. So I purchased it on the spot, they are holding it, and I will collect in person on Thursday. The next day I called customer service (during business hours, and they said it had shipped already but they could have it rerouted to their warehouse. When it arrives, they will credit my account for the purchase so it’ll be like I returned it without any effort on my part. How nice!

Overall, I ended up saving an additional $20 from black friday + coupon, getting the final price of $149.99 instead of $269.99, and dealt with several very nice cordial employees of Macy’s who cared about how I spent my money, both in the store and on the phone. Sometimes it’s better to buy in the store! 

I’ve always had a soft spot for Macy’s, maybe it’s all the presents my grandmother used to get me when I was the only grandchild and she worked at Macys and got discounts on stuff.

Merry xmas, happy hanukah, and may you all find yummy, frugal gifts this holiday season.

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Slow and steady wins the race

September 3, 2010 at 8:04 am (debt stats, things I bought, truck, unexpected expenses)

Regardless of how quiet I’ve been on this blog, I continue to chip away at my debt. My disposable income seems to have shrunk a little in the last few months, what with the boyfriend still paying a reduced rent due to his unemployment, and my increase in REI purchases the last few months. But I’ve refocused on paying down debt and am trying to slow down on buying. If nothing else, I continue to pay debt and update my debt stats on the right.

Made a pact with a friend to get out and go hiking every weekend in spring, so had to buy a bunch of new equipment that will last me for years to come. New boots, new hiking pants (and all those fancy new non-cotton fabrics) and shirts, and all the camping supplies that I once owned but seemed to go on their own walk-about (I think they did on my last relationship breakup). I think I’ve spent like $800 this summer!!! But it’s mostly over now. At least I already had the tent, sleeping bag, cookware and stove. Not to mention all the extra gas! It’s about a full tank of gas every time I go, so $30-$40 every other week. But it’s been worth it to get out in the woods for a serious dose of triple oxygen for 6+ hours one day a week.

My car broke…again. Some really expensive Nissan part, diagnostic, and labor. $788. That was way more than I had in my car fund, so half of it came out of debt payments (I didn’t need to hit the emergency fund). This is the third time my truck has broken since Thanksgiving. I wonder if it will continue being so expensive? I do a lot of driving with it, luckily it’s all been when I was close to home, and not 2 hours from Seattle on a forest service road with no cell reception in the middle of the mountains, which is definitely a concern! I don’t want to, but I think I have to increase my vehicle fund savings from $100 to $150 for a while.

I finally managed to have a yard sale. Made $350 and promptly put it in the bank and paid down debt. We’re planning on having another one in a few weeks, now that we’re finally clearing through all the piles of stuff in our basement storage disaster. I also have a bunch of higher ticket items that I need to sell on craigslist/ebay, since they will all sell between $50-$500. That’s definitely too rich for a garage sale, plus many of the items are pretty specialized.

I did a photo gig about 3 months ago for a company that wanted photos of their staff and office shots to redesign their website (which replaced really bad stock photos). Finally got paid $500 for that, and of course, it went straight towards debt. Not something I have done before – a good friend talked me up to her friend (who eventually hired me), since I do photography and well. But I had never done people or any type of photo shoot like this (I do fine art that does not include people!). This seriously pushed me out of my comfort zone, but the results were quite nice, and I got paid a bunch, so bonus!

My computer broke last week – the port where the power cord plus into the laptop broke off inside and I couldn’t charge it. Ugh. $208. Not expecting that. 1.5 years old, too. It’s annoying when all these things happen when it would be so much better if they didn’t! To think of how much debt I could have paid off instead?!

Either way, I’m sticking to my slowed-down schedule of debt payoffs. Hard as it is! It’s a process, a long one, but I’m getting there. I don’t think it will happen, but I’m pretty close to only havine one debt left (by February/March next year) and be under $30,000. I think when I make it into the 20Ks, I’ll really feel like it’s manageable. I’m definitely on track to meet my deadline, and who knows what will happen in the future?

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Ups and downs the past 2 months

June 29, 2010 at 7:41 am (mr. maven, things I bought, truck)

It’s been mostly downs when it comes to money, but things are certainly looking up going forward. You’ll notice that my mini-funds are mostly exhausted (on the right). Here’s an overview of what’s been going on:

Vehicle Issues
One night leaving work my truck refused to stay running and started chugging in fits and starts. Luckily I was able to limp to the mechanic and catch a ride home with a coworker without having to get a tow. A $175 diagnostic later, and a $475 Nissan specialized part later, my bill came to $777.87 for a new mass airflow sensor. That cleaned out my meager $360 car fund. The rest (more than $400) came out of what should otherwise have gone towards debt.

J’s continued unemployment
J finished his 2 year paralegal program earlier this month and he is DONE! However, he has continued to remain unemployed in order to have time to complete his 2 final classes. Now that he’s done he has decided to be self-employed and try to find several lawyer clients to do contract paralegal work for. He has one person lined up and is in the process of getting another. However he wants to stay unemployed through the summer if possible to finish getting his business house in order and to help study for a big paralegal exam. So for a while he is going to continue to pay less than his normal share of rent and expenses. That is a direct impact on me, as I have to make up the difference, which means less money to pay towards debt (to the tune of $150-$250/month).

New art purchases
I couldn’t help myself. I bought another sculpture from my favorite artist. I am helpless when it comes to this person’s art. Damage: $240. I still don’t feel bad about it however.

Hiking, more hiking, and supporting REI
I made a pact with a good friend of mine to go for a hike every Saturday. Except for one weekend she was out of town for a trip (and I still went without her), and last week when I had strep throat and was in bed for 5 days straight, we’ve not missed a weekend in the last 3 months. We’re doing this to get out of dodge as well as get good rigorous exercise. To really make this possible I had to replace my nasty ill-fitting hiking boots (they gave me such a bad blister one weekend that it took me 3 weeks to heal the skin on my heal), buy some gear, some hiking books, and clothes. Damage: $270 for new hardcore boots (which fit like a dream), $275 for wicking shorts/convertible pants/wicking tops, $40 for 6 hiking books (all used!!), and an extra tank of gas every other week (driving 2 1/2 hours outside of Seattle to get into the mountains); $30 for an annual trail pass, $30 for an annual Mt. Rainier national park pass, $60 for a pair of used trekking poles, and a bunch of other misc. items. I did pay for this partially with my clothes and health fund – I’m considering this an investment on my health and well-being.

I’ll definitely be paying more in the future as I have a few more items to get (a good day pack to replace my cheesy $10 target backpack for example), but I still have most of my camping gear. I don’t know if I will need a new backpack, as the one I have is expensive, but I don’t like it very much. Maybe I will return it to REI for a refund, I think it was in the $300-$400 range. Tent, check. Sleeping bag, check. Cookware and stove, check.

I’ll also be planning a few backpacking trips for overnight or multiple days, and hopefully a week-long trip in September or October where I plan on hiking every day.

I could have neglected to buy the new art and not invest in hiking gear, but I don’t think I can maintain not hiking or buying new art for another 4 years. Marathon, not a sprint, remember! I’m in this for the long haul, and want to enjoy my life as I get out of debt in a maintainable way.

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