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Archive for January, 2009

Budget Update and Goal Update

January 24th, 2009 at 06:28 pm

I've decided that updating the budget for Checkbook One on Thursdays works well. So far so good. We are still under or at budget in all categories for Checkbook One. I think we'll even make the budget in the grocery category this month and not be 21% over.

I've moved what used to be Goal 1 off to a page. It is fun to look at past accomplishments but I don't want to get stuck there!

Goal 3: Decrease food costs. I've given it a dollar figure. Some people here might wonder why the budget is set at $650 for just three people. Two reasons: It includes personal care and cleaning supplies (and also any eating out), and I value organic and locally produced food and that adds up. To bring the costs down I've done things like look for sales on food that we typically buy, change some things about our diets (oatmeal instead of cold cereal for example), and figure out how best to use meat and dairy products which seem to be the most expensive categories in the food budget. Last year's average was higher than this, so it's definitely an improvement.

Future goal: Develop a source of "egg money". Here's a definition I found of egg money:

Before World War II, most eggs were produced by small flocks that scratched their way around the barnyard. The farmer's wife usually supervised the operation. The money received from the sale of the eggs was considered hers. Source: http://www.georgiaeggs.org/pages/eggmoney.html

I started tutoring a couple of weeks ago. . . and I really like it! I'm tutoring math with younger children using materials I'm already familiar with. I'm not charging enough, and both my client and me know that. But as I told her, she's helping train me so we're both winning. We will re-evaluate the fees in a month or so.

While the definition of egg money posted above has it under the control of the farmer's wife, I asked the farmer what he thought we should do with the money. He had no opinion. So I suggested that a percentage of it be set aside for taxes, 15% for the EF or retirement and the rest in to Checkbook One. He was agreeable. It's not a whole lot in to the checkbook but it might be enough to fund our summer camping trips.

2009 Goals Update

January 19th, 2009 at 04:30 am

Mr H and I had a discussion about the EF in December. We agreed to take some of his bonus money and add it to the 4496.85 already in the Emergency Fund. We later discussed what type of account to put this money in and decided to put it in a three month CD. While it's possible we could lose some interest if we had to tap in to the account, it wouldn't be a huge loss. If we don't have to tap in to it the account will earn better interest than a money market account would.

So, Goal 1 (emergency fund to 8625.00) on my list is completed, six months ahead of schedule!

Goals 2 (budget for checkbook 1) and 3 (decrease food costs) are in progress, with more progress on 2 than 3 I'd say.

Goal 4 (stay away from coffee shops) has had minimal progress. I was given a Starbucks gift card which has helped our bottom line but not my coffee-out habit.

Goal 5 will probably get moved elsewhere, but I may blog about it from time to time.

I will add a goal of earning part-time or sporadic income. This has been in my head for a while, but strangely it's also under way. I was asked by a friend to help tutor some of her children.

Checkbook One Conclusions

January 17th, 2009 at 03:01 pm

I've been giving some thought as to why we suddenly didn't overspend Checkbook One in December. I have been concerned about this problem since I started blogging here in April, but feel like I have been chasing my tail trying to solve it.

I've come to the conclusion that it's just perseverance in trying to figure out where we went wrong each month and correct that. (Having bad weather for about two weeks which limited us leaving the house also helped. When you don't leave the house you don't spend money or use up your gas.) So, I suppose it's not really sudden at all.

Our top three problems with Checkbook One were the credit card, spending during the week between the time that Mr H got his check and the new month started, and not having a spending plan that works.

Credit card: Although we pay off our credit card every month, it's psychologically hard to write a check for one-quarter to one-third of the amount in your checkbook at the beginning of the month. Our credit card usage increased over the years as stores stopped taking checks. I got a debit card a while ago, and Mr H got one a couple of months ago. Where we regularly used to put gas and take-and-bake pizzas on the credit card we now put them on the debit card. "Pay as you go" is working better than "put off the paying until next month". Don't people spend 23% more when they use a credit card?

Spending during the week between the time that Mr H got his check and the new month started: Okay, that was me. . . and it wasn't THAT much. . . but enough to kill the budget. I wrote about this last spring. I called it "The Dead Zone". My brain kind of went on holiday during that week. What was I thinking? I wasn't thinking, and that was the problem.

Not having a spending plan that works: There are so many ways to write a budget. For this checkbook and us, having a limited number of categories and looking at the amount left in each category weekly, on Friday, seemed to do the trick. We have the following categories: Grocery/Personal Care/Cleaning, Gas, Church Contribution, Bowling, Master Card and Everything Else. (Regular bills like mortgage, insurance etc are paid out of another checkbook.) The Everything Else category scares me - the dollar amount is limited and it covers a huge number of other categories like clothing, gifts, office supplies, household items and yard and garden. But lumping these into "Everything Else" works better than trying to allocate a few dollars into each of the sub-categories. Or at least it did this month.

January is looking good so far.

Last Month's Groceries

January 3rd, 2009 at 03:44 pm

I have spent some time the last couple of days figuring out where we went wrong on the Grocery/Personal Care/Cleaning budget last month. We spend 20% more that the amount budgeted.

Because I rank among the world's biggest nerds, I actually went through each grocery receipt, categorized each purchase and wrote the purchase down on a sheet of paper with the category heading at the top. Christmas food purchases sank our food budget. Like most people we have special food items we buy during the Christmas season and some of them are expensive. The dollar amount of these purchases was almost equal to the dollar amount over food budget last month.

I showed my sheets of paper to Mr H. First he said incredulously "You went through every grocery receipt?" Yes, there were quite a few, and while I tend to be organized with receipts I wasn't last month and had to spend some time finding them. He came to the same conclusion regarding Christmas food purchases, then he said something like, "This looks pretty much like what we eat. I don't see how we can spend less money on food." I didn't say anything but I thought, "Them's fighting words - sounds like a challenge to me."