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Archive for September, 2015

$6 off for anyone buying YNAB - referral link

September 20th, 2015 at 04:28 pm

I took the plunge last night and purchased YNAB before my trial period ran out. I think that it will be a good investment for me. I'm already much more aware of how much money is flowing into my life, how much I need for monthly bills and basic necessities, and I am starting to think about what I'd like to do with the extra, if any, rather than piddling it away with unfocused and unsatisfying spending. So, we'll see how it goes.

I took one last YNAB live on-line course in a desperate attempt to win a free copy - they give one away at the end of each session. That strategy failed so I bought the program and then received a referral link that will get a new YNAB buyer $6 off the $60 price and I will get $6 through Payp@l. A win-win!!

My referral link is below. Please consider using it if you decide to purchase YNAB! Copy and paste the link into your browser to get to the YNAB webpage and you will see a note at the top that your discount has been applied. Then click "Purchase". You will automatically get offered the sale price ($54) and you can buy it.


Hope everyone is having a good weekend! Smile

Productive Saturday

September 19th, 2015 at 09:42 pm

After a busy few weeks, I am so happy to have no plans for this weekend. Today is flying by, but I'm getting a lot done. I washed all of the dishes, straightened up the house, picked up and put away clothes from the past week, sorted laundry which I will do later this week, cleaned old food out of fridge, picked up mail from my PO Box which I haven't visited in a few weeks, and lots more!

Then I sat down at my computer to play with YNAB and ended up taking all afternoon to reconcile it. Ugh. I started YNAB a month ago in a very sloppy manner just to try it out. Now that I'm going to buy and use the program, I wanted to have the balances actually my match my checking account and credit card. This took forever! But now it's done and balanced and I can move forward from here with accurate data.

My property taxes of $1895.25 are due on October 1. I thought I owed about $2100, but just looked at the bill and the lower figure was a nice surprise! According to YNAB, I have $614.02 unspent funds from August, so I'm rolling that amount over to use toward the taxes. I have a sort of snowflake of $1072.95 (is a refund of money already spent a true snowflake?) that I will also use. I bought a bunch of stuff from Z@ppos in May 2014 and ended up not wanting to keep most of it. But I forgot about it and then finally returned it all just before the year deadline passed. Actually, I called just before the deadline and they authorized the return, but I didn't package and mail the items until mid-June. Thankfully, they still provided a refund check, which has been floating around on my desk since late July. I also have a tiny snowflake check of .92, a credit from when I closed my Discover account in June, so I'll add that in. That means I'll need $207.36 from September's budget in order to cash flow the taxes, which should be no problem.

I may pay the tax bill this week. I usually wait until October 1, but I'm not going to generate more than a few cents, if any, interest on the portion that's currently in my checking account, so I might as well bite the bullet and get it over with. I tend to hang on to money that's technically spent as a kind of mind game - imagining that I don't really have to fork it over. It doesn't work, I still have to fork it over! I often end up paying bills late and incurring interest charges and then have to spend either time talking my way out of the charges or money to cover them. It's just so much easier to accept the inevitable and pay up on time or even early!

I went a little crazy and have racked up over 400 SBs so far today. I now have more than 2200 and could get a $25 Amzon gift card rather than my usual 2500 SBs for $25 cash through Payp@l. I have a $60 Amzon gift card balance, so that would bring me up to $85. I'd like to purchase a backpack for lugging my computer, notes and other stuff to and from work. I'll have to look to see what's available on Amzon.

I'm still debating whether or not to prebuy my fuel oil for the winter. I struggle with this decision every winter! I've prebought for the last few years, but I haven't gone back to see if it was worth it in terms of actual price fluctuations. This is reminding me that I need to schedule a heater cleaning. That will be another $400 at least!

I've mostly continued my light eating this week except for splurging at a work reception (worth it and I made it into dinner) on Thursday and enjoying a giant soft serve cone yesterday afternoon. I treated a young colleague who lent me a sleeping pad and a blow up mattress for a camping overnight last weekend. My friend and I ended up using the mattress and it was wonderful not to sleep on the ground. The two cones cost $6.50 total and were worth it!

I avoided the food market last week and have been consuming what I already have on hand. Today's menu so far: scrambled eggs with scallions and lettuce wrapped in a whole wheat flour tortilla (with a little ketchup!), a small bowl of my neighbor's fresh picked raspberries (yum!) and an apple from my tree. I'm going to have another tortilla or two with refried beans, scallions, lettuce and cherry tomatoes for dinner and probably more fruit for a snack.

I will shop mid-week and that should take care of the rest of September. I hope to stay within an $80 grocery budget for this month, but I'm hosting my knitting group on September 28 and need to make a main dish, so that goal may not be possible, which is fine. The budget is so low because I have gotten lots of free food from various sources over the past month. That will soon change as friends' gardens stop producing.

pay day

September 18th, 2015 at 03:37 pm

My current salary is $68,312. I'm not completely happy with that, but that's a story for another post. Obviously, I'm grateful to have a well-paying job and my benefits are excellent, but I would like to be making more money overall, especially for the amount of time I have spent at the workforce and at my current place of employment. I failed to plan, though, so here I am!

I don't really ever look at my pay stub, so I'm going to do that now and see what's what.

I get paid every two weeks.

Gross pay: 2627.38
Deductions: 1608.24
Retirement plan (mandatory 6%) 157.64
Retirement plan (voluntary) 1,024.68
Medical Insurance 22.89
Dental Insurance 1.05
Vision Insurance .52
Flex Spending Account 57.70
Fed tax, SS, medicare & state tax 343.76
Net pay: 1019.14

Every other pay period, my paycheck is $1015.94, with an additional $3.20 deducted for a life insurance policy, which I believe is mandatory.

Interesting to know that if I ceased all voluntary retirement and flex spending contributions, my pay would be more like $2101.52 every two weeks. That's not entirely accurate, though, since those are pre-tax deductions, so I'm assuming my taxes would be a bit higher? In that case, I'd be living on $54,639.52 a year. Wow, that would be great! Of course, I would have no retirement savings.

I am started to wonder if I should put less towards retirement and more towards living today. It's a balancing act and I may be focusing too much on the future at the expense of the present. I want to keep thinking about that. Of course, I'm afraid to save a little less for retirement (what if I become a bag lady?!!), but life is here and now and in some ways, I'm missing out and denying myself, which may not be necessary.

So happy that it's Friday!!! Smile

Quick update

September 17th, 2015 at 11:23 pm

Another busy week is thankfully coming to a close soon! I'm still at work waiting for a slight buzz to wear off before driving home. I attended a reception that featured delicious appetizers (free dinner!) and an open bar, so I treated myself to a very small glass of chardonnay. I rarely drink and am apparently quite a lightweight! I made a big political mistake at work today and my boss was pissed. It was a relief to get out of the office and enjoy mingling with some friendlier colleagues.

I've fallen off the exercise wagon due to busyness, but will resume this weekend. I've continued to eat mostly healthy and light with a few slips last weekend, but that was due to a lethal combo of free food and hormonal cravings. I did enjoy every morsel!

I haven't had any time to look at YNAB, but I do need to buy the program in the next three days or I will lose my current info. I have managed to continue minimal non-essential spending. I will pay my property taxes at the end of September and I need to pre-buy my heating oil for the winter, although oil prices are so low at the moment that I don't know if it's worth it this time around. Anyone else reconsidering prebuying fuel oil this winter?

The free food barrage continues. A friend is away and her garden is producing tons of cherry tomatoes and delicious raspberries which she begged me to pick and eat. Ok! I have a million small apples from my backyard tree and I have received some garden goodies from another friend.

I tried something new yesterday. I do most of my food shopping at a local co-op store which was offering 20% off produce from one of my favorite organic farms, a sale that ended yesterday. I made the decision not to visit the store after work to take advantage of the sale because I most likely would have 1) bought more produce than I could actually use (but it's on sale!) 2) started to load other items that I don't really need into my cart (but I want and can use it!). I had plenty of food at home and there will be other future sales that I can take advantage of. This really was a big decision for me and I now realize that it was o.k. not to go. I sometimes become so anxious when faced with a decision like this that I give in to soothe the anxiety. I now realize that while it was tough in the moment to choose not to go (I'm missing the bargains!), the entire episode passed rather quickly and I really haven't thought of it since until I started to write this. I would like to remember and use this knowledge in the future to help curb unnecessary spending generated from "getting a good price". I like sales, but it's not necessary for me to take advantage of each one. Sounds a little corny, but it was a big deal!

So, no need to prepare dinner tonight and I've already made most of my lunch to take with me to work tomorrow. Yay. Tomorrow is pay day, and the $1,019.14 will technically go towards my October budget if I follow YNAB's philosophy. I get paid 26 times a year, so that means that I am living on approximately $26,500 a year. Wow, I don't know if that's possible, which is why I signed up for YNAB. I want to get a realistic picture of what it costs to live my life and whether or not I'm making enough to support it.

Time to go home!

so busy!

September 11th, 2015 at 10:14 pm

My work is kicking into high gear and will remain busy until November and beyond. Boo hoo. Definite first-world problem.

Still plugging along with YNAB. Haven't had much time to interact with it recently, but it has kept me from engaging in unwanted spending so far, so that's a plus! And, I have remembered to enter my scant spending, so yay! My trial runs out in 8 days, so I need to commit and pay next week if I want to continue. I've taken a few of the live online classes to try to win the free version, but I haven't been chosen yet!

I'm going camping on Saturday with friend M and her 7-year-old daughter. Should be fun, although it might rain - ugh. We are doing an 18-mile charity bike ride on Sunday morning, mostly on dirt roads. I haven't ridden a bike in many years, so this should be interesting. It's supposed to rain that day, too. Double ugh. I'm tempted to break my no-spend spree with a trip to TJMaxx this evening. Apparently they have some sport rain gear in stock. I don't have anything waterproof to ride in, but I will most likely just tough it out as usual. I just don't feel like shopping and I'm still at work!

I just hit another 2500 sw@gbucks, but will wait to cash out for a $25 paypal card until 9/14, when a sw@gup rebate will be available, according to FrugalTexan's blog! Smile This will be my fourth $25 in a month. It's getting easier to rack up the bucks, which is great.

I few items I need to take care of:

Figure out how much I need to pull from savings to cover my property taxes, due October 1. I want to cash flow as much as possible, but won't have enough new money to pay the entire bill.

Return a contract to a local roofer who gave me an estimate FOUR years ago which I never followed up on. He returned in late July to have another look and updated the estimate and I still haven't followed up. My roof is LEAKING and needs many repairs. Why won't I follow through?? Major homeowner fail. Frown

Continue eating well and exercising regularly. I have lost weight, fit into more of my clothes and have much more energy! Another bonus is that I'm waking up early. I must learn to tolerate stress better and deal with it in healthier ways than overeating. But, goodness, I love to eat.

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

I just realized again that today is 9/11. Such a sad moment in history. Frown

september budget, free food extravaganza continues

September 2nd, 2015 at 07:07 pm

The total of my two August paychecks was $2035.09, so that's how much I have to budget for September if I follow the YNAB way. I've already received my landline/DSL bill (87.97, a little more than last month) and my electric bill (39.80, much less than last month because I was away for a bit). Those will get automatically paid at some point early in the month. I have estimates for my other monthly bills and have assigned budget amounts to variable categories (food, gas, entertainment, etc.).

I'm not contributing to any "savings" accounts this month because I want to cash flow (I think I finally understand this term that many SA bloggers use!) my property taxes and my pre-buy heating oil as much as possible, although I will most likely need to pull some funds out of savings to cover those costs completely. After this month, I will budget a certain amount a month for the next year for both of those categories. I also budgeted $500 in September towards my bathroom renovation debt.

Entertainment will be higher this month than last. I'm thinking about attending a local barn concert ($20) on Labor Day and a charity bike ride with some friends the following weekend ($25 to participate plus possible camping/lodging expenses if we stay overnight). Both excursions would be fun and worth the money.

A work colleague of mine is transitioning from retirement from her current job to becoming a life coach. During her training she offered discounted coaching sessions, so I decided to try it out. We worked together for a few months, mostly by phone. One of the terms she used was "sparkly moments" and I've been keeping that in mind recently as I decide how to use my time and money. I can get caught in major ruts of sleeping late, going to work, overworking, going home, watching tv shows on my computer while eating crappy food, falling asleep sitting up, then wash, rinse, and repeat the next day. Yikes, I'm almost embarrassed to type that. So, I'm attempting to think about and plan "sparkly moments" here and there because time is flying by and this is my life! The barn concert and the bike ride excursion will be two such moments if I decide to commit to them.

I've been part of a knitting group for about 15 years, although I don't knit! We take turns hosting once a month, share potluck food, socialize, and knit or do other needlework, if desired. We don't usually meet in the summer, but I suggested that we get together in late August at a local lakeside state park. Seven of us were available last evening, so we had a potluck picnic, swam and chatted for a few hours after work. I got there early and took a walk to squeeze in some exercise. It was a great time! My potluck creation was a mixture of white basmati rice and tricolor quinoa (both from my pantry) with steamed zucchini and kale (both free), chopped scallions (already in my fridge) with a shiitake/ginger bottled dressing that I had on hand. Cheap and yummy! I also took some apples from my tree. We're having a heat wave, so an evening at the lake with friends was perfect and definitely a sparkly moment.

One topic of conversation was upcoming travel and I found out that almost everyone has an interesting trip planned in the near future. Cuba, Italy, Costa Rica, and New Zealand were some of the destinations. I realized that I want to travel, but always put it off - nobody to go with, too expensive (but not bothering to budget and save for it), etc. I did start to look at active group trips recently, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that option. I used to be a bike tour leader in my 20s and have never seen myself as a "group tour person". I'll have to think about and explore that option some more because I really do want to experience more of the world.

On another topic, I got more free food this week!
From a work colleague:
Cherry tomatoes

From another work colleague:

Leftovers from a work event in my building:
3 sesame bagels, cream cheese
Watermelon and cantaloupe slices
A bit of grilled chicken

From a neighbor:
Bunch of kale
6 small pears
Cherry tomatoes
A few tomatoes

And I have a tree full of many, many small apples (I think they are McIntosh), so I've been enjoying those as snacks and I want to make some apple sauce.

I technically could get by with no food shopping this week, but I'm going to stop at my local food co-op after work to get some organic green grapes and whole wheat wraps on sale. I hope I can stick to my tiny list! :/

My light healthy eating and regular exercising continues! I did indulge a bit at last night's picnic, but am right back on track today. I'd like to be able to enjoy special events knowing that I can return quickly to light eating rather than making indulging the norm, as it often is, or completely forgoing all treats, which is no fun.

I walked for an hour with my friend A this morning and have a massage this afternoon. Back to work!

august spending

September 2nd, 2015 at 04:48 am

August was my first month using YNAB. So far, so good. By paying more attention to my money and thinking about how I needed to and wanted to use it, I definitely was inspired to avoid unnecessary spending. It was an easy month to low spend, but it will be difficult to maintain this for the rest of the year.

As expected, I am starting to feel anxiety and regret at not paying more attention to the inflow and outflow of my money for the past 25 years. I could be retiring early if I had! Apparently, the old adage "don't cry over spilled milk" never sunk in. I am definitely crying over spilled milk!

Ok moving on.

I've lived in my house for 11 years and I have never figured out what my monthly expenses are. Honestly, I put so much of my income towards retirement, I'm not really sure that I can successfully live on what's left. I'm using YNAB to reluctantly start to examine if that's true.

August spending

monthly expenses
landline/DSL/wireless 84.35
cell phone 11.57
skype 2.99
electricity 59.59
insurance - car & home 115.77
hair appt 115
everyday expenses
food 64.56
gas 63.65
medical 80
entertainment 20
eating out 35.34
toiletries 7.98
trash 7.5
clothing 44.5
laundry 5.25
cat 27.29
lawn care 160
coaching 75
vacation 4.85
August $$ available 2082.64
$$ left 1097.45
bathroom reno debt 500
savings accounts
friend's engagement gift 20
prepay heating oil 577.45

At YNAB's suggestion, I used my July income for my August budget, so I had 2082.64 to work with. I spent 985.19 during the month, leaving me with 1097.45. I owe money to the guy who did my recent bathroom renovation (he went over budget and I'm paying him in installments), so I'm using $500 for that. A friend is having an engagement party in October, so I'm putting aside $20/month for August, September and October for a gift. Not sure if they are expecting presents (she's 63!), but I want to be prepared. That leaves $577.45 which I will put towards prebuying fuel oil for the winter.

I'm estimating my prepay fuel bill to be around $1200, due in mid-September. My property taxes are due by October 1st, so I'll have to pull most of that out of savings. And I still owe $2685 for the bathroom renovation. Technically I have all of September's budget already in my account from August's paychecks, so I could use that for the heating oil and/or taxes and then use September's checks for September's budget. I'll decide at some point what to do.

First spending in September was today - $33.16 for gas. I'll be interested to see how my September budgeting plan and actual spending goes!

Wow, just got 51 sw@gbucks for a search to find this site to post this entry. Yay! i got 32 in an earlier search today. Smile

Must go to sleep! It's almost 1:00a and I'm meeting a friend at 7:00a for a walk.