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.
Viewing the 'DH and Money' Category
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 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."
Overheard at our house a few days ago:
Mr H: When are we going to look at the budget for Checkbook One? We haven't done that since before your mom was here.
And (at about 4:45 in the afternoon yesterday):
Me: Do you have any suggestions for dinner? (I spent my day sewing and driving kids around, and not on cooking dinner. Oops.)
Mr H: (Gives some suggestions and then says) or we could go to the burrito place.
Me: With what money?
Mr H: I have $20 in my wallet.
Me: Do you really want to spend your money that way?
Mr H: No.
Me: Then let's eat the leftovers that are in the refrigerator.
A few weeks ago I reviewed all my blog entries, which started in April. I thought, Geez, I really haven't gotten anywhere this year. I'm still talking about trying to get Checkbook One to balance and I'm saying the same things I was saying in April! What is wrong with me?
When DH and I sat down to look at the budget for Checkbook One a few days ago, we still had about $2 in it. (The actual checkbook balance says $6. There is some additional money in the checkbook which is not included in the balance to be padding in case of arithmetic errors.) This is the first time in I don't know how long that no additional money has been added to this account - it was not overspent. This is not to say we don't have some spending issues with this account, but for us this is a huge accomplishment.
Well, maybe I did get somewhere this year.
We aren't going anywhere tonight, and when I told Daisy about a "New York New Year's Eve"** her eyes lit up and she asked if she could stay up. I think I will go get a bottle of sparkling cider - I believe they are about $2 - and we'll toast the new year in style.
**When you live on the west coast, you stay up until 9 and celebrate the new year with those in NY because when it's 9 here it's midnight there. Then you go to bed. Daisy's normal bed time is 7:30. We have been known to celebrate a "New Foundland New Year's Eve" - 8 here, midnight in New Foundland - we've had some tired years.
My mom visited this last week and it curtailed my blogging. Fortunately (for me) she didn't have any comments about my spotty looking carpet.
Mr H received a bonus check the day before she arrived. At his work place they have something like a profit sharing bonus that usually turns out to be a significant amount of money. I'd guesstimate the take-home amount of it this year is equal to one-fourth of Mr H's annual take home pay. "What would you like to do with this money, Mr H?" was the first thing I said when he told me he'd deposited the check. "We'll talk about it after your mother leaves," was his response. We agreed on a date and time, and this conversation sat for a week.
We discussed it the day she left, just hours after she went to the airport. Mr H surprised me: he had a list ready of things he'd like to spend the money on. The Emergency Fund was at the top of the list! It looks like we will complete the Emergency Fund goal by December 31, well ahead of the July 1 date we'd set. I plan to set further Emergency Fund goals though, and Mr H agreed to that. We also tentatively agreed to replacing the sliding glass door, and replacing the carpet in the family room with a hard surface. Mr H can put in the new door and he has some work connections with a flooring company so even with doing both of these projects there should still be some money left. No firm decisions were made, except for the Emergency Fund. For us this conversation went very well.
Later I showed him a Checkbook One budget update. He didn't have much to say, except to note that the money for Grocery/Cleaning/Personal Care category was almost gone. But - we still might squeak by for the month, if we end up spending less on gas. Usually by this point in the month I've transferred $100 - $500 from savings to cover spending in this account. This savings transfer has been going on for years, so to even get this far in to the month without it is a huge development.
My current Goal 1 of getting the EF to $8625 by July 1 and Goal 2 of a Budget for Checkbook One are progressing nicely.
I sat down with Mr H on 12/5 and did a budget review for the month of December (so far).
With the budget comprising only Checkbook One, and having just seven categories it's a very limited amount of information. Perfect amount for this type of conversation. (For future reference the categories are Grocery/Cleaning/Personal Care, Gas, Church, Master Card, Bowling and Everything Else.)
I showed him the figures - each category had budget, amount spent and amount remaining. Right away he pointed out that the dollar amount I had started with did not include the Emergency Fund money, but that I had included it on the budget. So we're down to six categories.
He'll be bowling fewer evenings this month because of the holidays. I requested the surplus money go into the "Everything Else" category. Frankly, that category scares me. So far we've spent money on batteries, school pictures for Daisy and a newspaper from that category.
He also noted that the amount we spend on gas should be down with Daisy's school vacation. I won't be driving to school or the extra curricular activities during those days. I haven't paid the master card bill yet, and we've incurred some charges that will be paid from Checkbook Two. He suggested that I just go ahead and pay them now.
We haven't yet gone over budget on any items. It was only the 5th of December, so I should hope not! I plan to take this sheet of paper to him every week.
I guess the frustrating thing for me is that if I didn't bring him the information he wouldn't seek it out. If we are going to stop overspending this account we have very little margin for error, and if we aren't on top of it all the time we will overspend it. But perhaps I'll just be thankful that he engaged at all. That doesn't always happen.
The Everything Else category has just $154.55 in it this month. I've projected January and it should have more since we shouldn't have a master card bill next month.
I mentioned what items we've spent this money on this month. Here are some of the items we didn't end up spending this money on:
* Tickets for Daisy's dance performance and the costume fee for that performance. $56. I did some volunteer work for the dance school and didn't expect to be compensated for it, but was given three tickets and had the costume fee waived. Not having to pay for these items was a nice surprise.
* Chicken nuggets at McDonalds. Admittedly this was a completely impulsive thought, but I squelched it. Not sure how much these cost.
* Carpet cleaner. About $20. Our only carpet is about 13' x 10' and old. We are going to try to "clean dangerously" (ie, try carpet cleaning experiments that don't cost anything) before spending the money on cleaner.
* Renewal of annual zoo pass. At $95, this will have to wait.
* Renewal of a magazine subscription. $20. Again, this will have to wait.
Mr. H caught me about a week ago, and told me he had deposited his paycheck. He deposits set amounts into Checkbook One and Checkbook Two. Generally speaking, he manages Checkbook Two (mortgage, regular bills, medical expenses) and I manage Checkbook One (groceries, gas, clothing, gifts, yard and garden, household expenses, hobbies and other miscellaneous stuff). But we both access each account - I'll pay a doctor out of Checkbook Two, or he'll write a check for bowling out of Checkbook One. "And I put $50 in the Emergency Fund like we talked about."
"Which account did the $50 not go into?" I asked. When the words came out of his mouth I already knew the answer to this one.
"Checkbook Number One," he said. It's kind of like when he takes me out to an expensive restaurant for my birthday, and then later I'm juggling expenses to try to figure out how to pay the credit card bill.
"Mr. H, you're giving me $50 less to work with in an account that's overspent each month," I said.
"Oh. I guess we never talked about it," Mr. H said, some part of the light bulb going on over his head. "Fine! I'll just put it back."
"That's not what I said. I suggested that we work together to figure out where this $50 could come from. When you decided to take the $50 from Checkbook One, you're taking our problem and making it my problem. I'll have to make the hard decisions about what to cut out of our expenses." Unsaid was that, to keep peace in my home, I would probably not cut anything that would have an effect on him. So any uncomfortable effects would be on me.
Later on I showed him my post-it, on which I had written the dollar amounts of money I knew would be spent during December from Checkbook One. I assumed that we would spend about 2/3 of our typical food budget (which I'll admit needs to be cut back), I'd cut my coffee allowance to zero, and nothing would be spent out of that account that wasn't groceries, gas, church contribution, credit card payment or bowling (his hobby), plus the $50. If we can stick to that, which admittedly is fairly unlikely**, we'd have $150 in Checkbook One at the end of December. There is very little margin for error. But I do plan to take this up with him again.
** Christmas expenses have generally come out of Checkbook Two.
Before I made the last post about Goal 1, DH and I had a discussion about the EF.
It was initiated by him. I think he's getting more concerned about the economy and his job.
Anytime he initiates a conversation about money I'm there. I've worked hard to get to this point. I did not let being under the influence of a head cold (and feeling like I'm under water) get to me.
He reiterated what we'd agreed on for the dollar amount. I agreed that this was a good place to start, but countered that I wanted to reevaluate the dollar amount later. (I think that as a final total it's too low.) He agreed to that.
He wanted to include only the money we have in a certain savings account. (I had initially included money in that account as well as a CD in the sidebar.) I agreed.
He also said that he feels more comfortable if the bill paying account (Checkbook Two) is kept at a minimum of $1500. It's currently below that - with property taxes and work done on both our cars in the past month. He'd done two side jobs in the past month - the checks were coming in soon and he wanted to put some of those dollars in the EF and some in the bill paying account. I agreed.
I told him we needed to set a target date for putting the dollars in the EF. He suggested July 1st. That is 8 months to come up with $4,428.15. It doesn't seem like a terribly ambitious goal but I'll take it. For us it's progress.
The next day he deposited $250 from the side job into the account. Only $4178.15 to go.
Goal 1 on the side bar used to be: Get Mr. H more involved in our financial life. At some point after I finish posting this I'm going to change it.
I've been giving some thought to what I might mean by "getting Mr. H more involved in our financial life". To be a goal it has to be measurable and have a deadline, right? So I started by trying to figure out where we are:
* Mr. H pays the regular bills and handles that account (Checking Account Two), I handle the account that pays for groceries, gas, clothes, gifts, etc (Checking Account One). I also figure out how to pay the credit card bill each month.
* We now both have debit cards for Checking Account One. I requested this. Mr. H gets paid once per month, and I hate writing a check to the credit card company for 1/3 of the money that goes in checking account one right off the top. I'd rather pay as we go. Gas is the main expense put on a credit card. We are likely to have some glitches with this, as we have not had to work together very much with this account.
* We have one tiny joint goal regarding the emergency fund.
* If some unexpected money comes in, we usually discuss it. We don't always come to a conclusion about it but at least we're both aware of it. Mr. H has also started to initiate these conversations.
* If something needs to happen regarding our financial life I usually bring it up, and have to follow up on it. Where Mr. H used to always agree with me during these conversations but not follow up with action, today he's better about bringing up what he wants, and he's better about the follow up.
To Mr. H's credit, he's very good about the regular bills. Where I frequently get bored and restless with too much routine he seems to thrive on it. (It's probably not too much routine for him, LOL.) It also helps that that account has some padding.
Contrast this with where we were about five years ago:
* I paid all bills, reconciled all accounts, made all decisions about investments and saving. Mr. H never asked about it, and pretty much agreed with everything I proposed. I actually became very depressed at one point and didn't reconcile any of our accounts for 18 months - and Mr. H never noticed.
I think what I mean by "getting Mr. H more involved in our financial life" is "get Mr. H to take initiative both in his life and in our life together".
Well. . . hmm. . . I can't change his behavior so that's not a very workable goal.
But maybe something like "encourage Mr. H to work together with me to build up our emergency fund" and "work with Mr. H to get a monthly budget that balances, that we agree on, that we follow and that doesn't cause us huge problems". While neither of these steps address the big picture (What do we want to do with our lives and how does our financial life support that?) they are steps in the right direction. I'll continue to flesh out these goals. I guess it should be noted that I can also work on them (EF and budget) somewhat independently of Mr. H if need be.
** Warning: slightly dramatic and whiny post ahead. Read at your own risk. I don't plan to make a habit of this because in the long run I don't think it will help solve problems. But it helps me clarify some of my own thoughts, and it's a springboard for moving forward into 2009. **
I have recently read It's All Too Much and Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh. He's the host of an organizing show on TLC that I've never watched. We don't get that station. But both books were good. He really tries to get you to get to the heart of the matter. With clutter it's not about how to rearrange your house, it's about the life you live now versus the life you've lived in the past or the life you want to live in the future. I think anyone who's ever bought an exercise machine that became a clothing rack can relate to this. With being overweight, it's about what kind of life you want to live - not necessarily tied to a number on the scale, but what you want to do with your life and how having a healthy body can help you achieve that.
After reading these two books, I realized that the clutter problem in our house, my weight problem and our financial issues are all related. For me, they are all the same issue - trying to fill a hole that cannot be filled. The real problem is not about stuff, food or money - it's about relationships, and one in particular. While this is not a completely new revelation, rearranging these piece of my life and looking at it this way is.
The primary relationship problem is not solvable, at least not directly. Truly solving relationship problems takes willingness and cooperation from the people involved. If only one person is willing then the problems become something to be managed, but not solved. Yes, I know this sounds completely discouraging. . . and if I'd only think positively. . . and be a good sport. . . then the other person would respond positively and everything would be perfect, right? That hasn't been my experience though. Has anyone ever worked on a team where one person just wasn't a team player? Different strategies are tried but the person's behavior doesn't change. Sometimes the person is transferred to a different department, sometimes they're moved to a different position requiring less teamwork, sometimes they're let go. Usually though, short of dramatic experiences (such as being knocked off your horse by a bolt of lightening and blinded for three days) the person's behavior does not noticeably change.
Right now many bloggers here are thinking about their 2009 goals. I personally am having a hard time with this, or any other goals, but am working hard to overcome self pity and set some goals anyway. Mr. H doesn't believe in setting goals or having dreams about life. . . and after many years of this I've decided that it is not in my best interest to live this way anymore. No, I'm not leaving Mr. H, but am trying to figure out how to have goals and dreams that 1) Don't require Mr. H's active participation or involvement 2) Don't require me to carry Mr. H through them and 3) are not obviously divisive to our marriage. Early in our marriage and for several years I sat down with Mr. H to discuss the upcoming year - what did we plan to do, what goals we had, etc. Eventually I realized that I was setting most of the goals and doing most of the work to carry them out. So I stopped doing this completely, and Mr. H never said a word. Each year now I ask him how many camping trips he wants to go on (which I then set up), and that's about it. Sometimes we talk about house projects.
CouponAddict's recent post linked to Money Saving Mom's blog, in which she (Crystal) describes their (ambitious) financial goals for 2008. They achieved them too, and I have no doubt they will achieve their very ambitious goal for 2009. I admire Crystal and her husband very much - they truly work as a team and their hard work has been rewarded. I'm inspired by them. . . but I also have a hard time reading her blog. I'm envious of her (not the best reflection of my own character, I'm afraid) and recognize that, no matter how many different ways I've tried, I can't bring that sense of working hard together for the common good into my own life.
After a blogging break I'm going to get back at it.
Daisy has gone to "away school" for the first time and we are all adjusting. She seems to be enjoying it though. The school's quite a distance from our house; some of the fun for her is the carpooling arrangement with four of her friends. At this time I'm not planning to go back to paid employment, but if she goes to "away school" next year I will look into it.
Mr H and I continue on. . . business as usual in many respects. Here is a sample conversation:
Me: Today I bought shoes and books. I will pay for them out of the money my mom gave me. (** Unlike many women I don't buy many shoes. I have problem feet and have found only one brand, besides sneakers, that is comfortable. They last well, but cost over $100 per pair. I bought three pairs of shoes and spent over $300.)
Mr H: Why are you telling me this?
Me (inwardly sighing): I spent a significant amount of money and want to keep you informed.
We have had a few conversations about budgets over the summer but there was no discussion as to how money would be spent in September. Unfortunately it looks like we're back into our monetary free-for-all. I'm going to think about strategies to help this situation. Big, sweeping changes and sitting down to have a budget conversation every month. . . don't look promising. Little conversational "hits" every couple of days look like they'll have more effect.
We went camping last week. We always have a great time - what's not to like about climbing trees, playing in the creek, riding bikes and hanging out by the fire? Mr H camped as a child and I camped with the scouts, and Daisy loves to go camping.
Usually we have some extra food at the end of our trip, and I create some leftover concoction for our dinner when we get home. After packing up the car, then unpacking at home, doing laundry and washing the camp dishes I'm really not up for a great deal of cooking. I'm getting better about estimating the amount of food for our trips though, and we didn't have a whole lot left over this time.
After we'd completed some of the chores Mr H and I were sitting at the table next to the food box. We had four hotdog buns left and somehow they'd gotten under a package of something else and were about half the height of their former selves. Mr H got a good laugh out of them, but I suggested hot dog bun french toast for breakfast the next morning.
That's what we ended up having for dinner last night - hot dog bun french toast. We even had Daisy do most of the cooking of it, furthering her life skills education. We combined this with leftover bacon and ham from our trip, and topped the toast with jam (we're out of syrup).
And Mr H gets extra credit. When we were discussing our dinner plans I suggested going out, and he said "No, I think we should make something from what we have on hand." Usually in this scenario we end up going out.
After not achieving my previous goal, I've decided to set new goals. They are on the sidebar. I expect to do some work on them next week (Daisy will be at day camp), then not do much until September. (As a sidenote, DH and I had an interesting discussion involving Dave Ramsey's budget form. I'll try to post about that next week.)
Big changes are coming to the Onion Patch in September: After a lifetime of being homeschooled, Daisy is going to "away" school. She will be attending a small private school starting in September. When I say "small" I mean "small". There are three teachers, all of whom we've known since before Daisy was born, and about 30 students.
This school has an academic focus and offers no extracurricular activities. Tuition is very reasonable; the teachers see their jobs as a ministry and the school runs on a shoe-string budget. When I visited the school made me think of a one-room school house. The students work at their own pace. Daisy is acquainted with about half of the students.
Daisy has been homeschooled up to now and this will bring some real changes to the onion patch. She's very excited about it but will have to get up every morning. . . early. The school is some distance and we will be sharing carpooling with another family and one of the school's teachers. The other family has several children, the oldest of whom has been at the school about seven years.
I've been asked if I plan to get a job with Daisy gone all day. I've thought about it. . . but if I do work at paid employment it would have to be very flexible. I would want to have this job work around my family and not the other way around. It takes time and energy to develop and maintain family relationships. When I worked at my corporate job it seemed to take all that I had and there wasn't much left for my personal life. And I do remember my own childhood. . . my parents both worked full time and had some personal problems, and were not available to help me with the frequently difficult task of growing up. I want things to be better for my daughter.
We will be going to a social event at the school this week. I've set a goal to meet all the parents of the other students there. . . no small task for an introvert.
We've been talking about vehicles here in the onion patch.
DH owns a 1992 full-sized truck. I have a 1993 station wagon. Both of our vehicles have had a few problems over the years but have been dependable. They also have 160000+ miles on them.
DH commutes about 15 miles, one way, to work. In a truck that gets 15 miles per gallon that's about two gallons of gas per day, not counting any driving around he does for work. He has really noticed the increase in gas prices.
On and off over the years I've brought up the topic of our aging vehicles and changing needs. When DH bought his truck he was a single guy doing construction. Now he has a family and a job that's more of a desk job. Meanwhile as Daisy has grown I've noticed that I do more "kid hauling" - I don't just take Daisy somewhere but a friend or two as well. Even well-maintained vehicles don't last forever, and my fear is that one day a transmission or engine will go out and we'll be scrambling to replace a vehicle. I'd rather anticipate that need if possible.
My previous attempts to engage DH in discussing our automotive future failed. Now with gas prices high DH has gotten more interested in replacing his vehicle. He has talked about it over the last several months, but again our conversations went no where in terms of action.
DH's parents are selling their car and DH decided that it would be a good choice. It is a 2004 Honda which they bought new. DH and I have had several discussions about it over the last few weeks. He has looked in to insurance for it and talked with a couple of mechanics (one a relative) about this model of car. I think the car is a reasonable choice, so I will agree to it. He has put a lot more effort into acquiring this car than I have seen him put into other things. At other times when we've talked about car replacement he just figured that he'd get a car loan, go to the nearest dealership and buy the first thing that he saw. (Well, maybe not the first thing but close - after 15 years I have a good idea how DH operates.)
The sticking point has been the money required to buy it. DH wanted to get a car loan but I wouldn't agree to that. Last week DH presented me with a list of sources and amounts for the money required for this car. I was impressed. He also says that once the money is straightened out for this car we will start saving for a replacement for my vehicle. I plan to hold him to that.
Since I wrote the "Negotiation" post we've had a follow on conversation that sounded something like this:
DH (while sitting at desk, which is in living room, and writing a check): "I'm writing a check for the mutual fund."
Me (knowing that our mutual fund is direct deposit, so he's paying the extra that we talked about): "How much are you sending in?"
DH: "280 dollars."
Me: "Hmm, how much was that IRS refund?"
DH: "280 dollars."
Me: "Didn't we agree that we would spend half of that money for gas (for DH's full-sized, 15-miles-per-gallon truck) and the camping trip, and send the other half to the IRS?
DH: "Yes, but it doesn't matter. It'll be fine."
Me (in a reasonable tone, although I was thinking, here we go again): "If we agree to do something, and then don't do it and don't discuss the change of plans with each other, what is the point of having the first conversation?"
In the end DH sent $100 to the mutual fund. Married people, is there any good way to hold each accountable without sounding like a complete nag?
I suppose some people drop off on their blogs because they don't have much to say. I have plenty to write about, but a bunch of Real Life stuff to take care of and so have had no time for blogging.
The abridged version, with more detailed entries to follow:
* We went out of town for Memorial Day weekend, plus one extra day. We are keeping busy with end-of-the-school-year stuff.
* DH finished the Dave Ramsey book.
* DH has decided to replace his 1992 full-sized truck with a 2004 Honda Civic. He did all the leg work (insurance quotes, talked w/mechanics, worked with sellers) plus he's figured out how to pay for it. I'm shocked. Go DH!
* We are looking at Away School (as opposed to Home School) for Daisy next year.
* DH used Quicken to create an expense report for the last year. Neither one of us are really sure what to do with it, but he is interested in some kind of a budget.
* We still ran a deficit in Checkbook Number One in May. Despite my attempts to pin our money issues on DH, I'm definitely the culprit on this one.
DH and I received a small income tax refund. We actually negotiated what we were going to do with it. This is a big step for us - in the past I made most of the financial decisions. While for some people that might sound ideal it doesn't lead to building togetherness in a marriage. I've been pushing for more involvement on DH's part for several years. There are things going on in our lives, but not reported here, that are making that more likely.
Here's how our conversation might have sounded before:
Me: DH, we got our income tax refund. What do you want to do with it?
DH: I don't know.
Me: What do you think about putting 1/4 toward the mortgage, 1/4 in the mutual fund and spending the rest on (whatever the current project or need was)?
Here's how our conversation sounded this time:
DH: What do you want to do with the income tax refund?
Me: What do YOU want to do with the income tax refund?
DH: Let's put it in our checking account. It can pay for our trip this weekend, and the shortfall in the checkbook.
Me: Hmm, how about if we put 1/4 toward the mortgage, 1/4 in the mutual fund and spend the rest on our trip? (**Yes, this is the same thing I would have said before. I like this strategy for windfalls.)
DH: How about if we put half in the mutual fund and half towards our trip?
Can I just say that I'm thrilled at this turn of events?
I was listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio the other day. A caller said that he and his wife had just started doing a budget, and that they kept having all these unexpected expenses - software for his wife's college class, something for the kids (don't recall it specifically) etc. Dave said that these type of expenses could be anticipated, that as time went on and they continued to work on their budget they would be able to anticipate them, that it took people generally about three months to get the hang of it, and that when these things came up the couple needed to have an "emergency budget committee meeting" and decide what they would do.
DH and I have never really had a budget. We've had a loose spending plan that worked reasonably well when our income was higher. We continued this when I left paid employment. Since neither of us are big spenders it worked okay for a while and now isn't working so well.
When DH and I talked about our spending for May we listed out several expenses that we saw coming that month. Soon after May started I noticed four things:
* We had expenses that we should have been able to anticipate, like Daisy's end-of-year dance photos.
* We had potential expenses that are unexpected, like our cordless phone breaking.
* If it was written down we were likely to think about it and come up with a different or lower-priced alternative.
* I've gotten really used to buying "little stuff" that catches my fancy, and I'm going to have to break that habit.
We paid for Daisy's photos. We haven't yet replaced the cordless phone. Since it has an answering machine that still works, it's been moved to another room and we're using a corded phone for our main phone now. Instead of buying a new bicycle DH decided to borrow a relative's bicycle for a while. And I started to keep a list of the little stuff that I wanted to purchase instead of just buying it.
I guess we are reinventing the wheel in many ways. . . and the wheel still works.
It's May 20th, and Checkbook Number One is looking pretty empty.
We got rid of The Dead Zone, so what happened?
Well, several things: the grocery/eating out dollars spent is way over budget, less is being put on the credit card (and thus being put off until next month) and there were some math errors.
I'm hoping and anticipating we'll be able to squeak by until June with another fill-up for both vehicles, and about $100 for our Memorial Weekend Camping trip (this includes about $60 for a ferry ride).
DH and I had a discussion about this last night. He had a pretty negative reaction. In reality though, this is nothing different than what's happened here in the onion patch for the last several years. The main difference is that he is now aware of it. While it's challenging to deal with his reaction, we are talking and that is a huge improvement in my book.
Last night I was out running errands. When I got home DH asked where the Dave Ramsey book was. He had left it on his library book shelf. I had taken it off the shelf in the morning (and finished reading it) and hadn't put it back.
Do you know what this means?? DH is taking the initiative to read the book! Well, at least he was yesterday.
Trying not to get too excited. . . trying not to get my hopes up. . . trying not to get too excited. . . trying not to get my hopes up. . .
DH and I did talk, on Sunday evening after Daisy was in bed.
I have taken the information that I had on a file card and put it in a pocket-sized notebook. What you see on the side bar for April fits on one page.
On the next set of pages are the May spending plan (looks a lot like April) and the month-to-date totals. The next two pages after that hold the things that we talked about spending money on May, with estimate and actual expense columns. These are items that fall in the "Everything Else" category. There aren't many, or the list wouldn't fit on one page of a pocket-sized notebook.
DH wanted to see the April figures. I had already told him about The Dead Zone, so that even though it looks like we under spent by about $200, we actually over spent by about $100. He looked at May. Then he told me about a few expenses he could see coming in June. I wrote them down, although only one of them has a dollar estimate.
That was pretty much the end of the conversation. It took about 10 minutes.
Even though we have a long, long, long way to go, this conversation was way more than I would have anticipated back on April. I need to keep reminding myself of that when I feel completely frustrated by his non/under-involvement policy.
I've been entertaining my mother, as well as hosting a family event last weekend - kind of puts a crimp in my blogging. Mom will head home tomorrow and I'll get back at it.
But, while I have a couple of spare minutes, I'm suprised to report the following:
My DH asked to set up some time this weekend during which we could talk about how we did in April. He also volunteered some information regarding expenditures in June.
I'm still in such a state of surprise over this turn of events that I haven't figured out what to think about it.
DH and I have talked about our finances twice since "the sky is falling" conversation last week.
The first conversation was the next night. DH now realized that the sky was not falling, but was not entirely clear on where to go from here, except that we should spend less.
The second conversation happened yesterday. The mood was right so I asked DH what he thought we'd be spending money on in May. With our two-checkbook scheme the regular bills are already covered, so this would be the other categories, like food, gas, clothing, recreation, household items and the like.
I made a list of everything we thought of. That came up to $410. Then we looked at what we had to spend money on. Looking at the cost of gas was rather shocking - between our two vehicles we estimated about $500 next month. Combined with groceries at $500, and church contributions at $100, we are left with $272.55.
Even though $272.55 doesn't equal $410, we stopped our conversation there, both realizing that the work is not done. The awareness is raised though, and I think that's key. With these items on our minds we're more likely to figure out a way to get them less expensively.
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