Category Archives: Budgeting

We Recouped $80 in 3 Minutes

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From the children’s book “Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Ben Franklin”

One of the benefits to budgeting even after you are debt-free is that it forces you to pay attention to the expenses you incur.  If you get too relaxed, the little things will definitely add up and bite you.

I recently had an annual eye exam.  We have no vision insurance, though the eye doctor likes to submit the claim to our health insurance in case there is something medical they will pick up (such as eye disease).  Usually my bill just gets kicked right back because my eyes are healthy.

DH saw the claim pass through and noticed the high cost ($ 225 plus refraction) right away.  We both recalled having an issue with their billing process in the past.  We decided to wait until the eye doctor billed us, but you better believe we were fully ready to engage in battle!

The bill arrived yesterday and I had it open before I even got to the front door.  They had billed us their “insurance” price because they had submitted the bill to medical insurance and it was denied.  I called right away and politely said that I didn’t think that was the right price for “self-pay”.  The billing clerk said she could take 30% off for self-pay, and in a minute I had recovered 80.00.

I wondered how many people get the bill and just pay it?  Anytime you have any sort of medical or dental claim denied, it is absolutely worth it to inquire if you can have the “self-pay” price.  

Have you ever asked for the self-pay price?

 

Rolling into February and Saving

The days are ever so slightly lighter in the evening and my friend’s chickens have picked up their egg production — I’m feeling optimistic for spring even if it might be a bit premature!

Saving

  • DH and I just made it under the data limit for our phones last week!  That’s $ 20.00 easy money.  I think I had been off wifi at home for a little while and that does not mix well with Instagram!
  • The last two times I have bought grass fed ground beef on sale at a particular market they have not rung it up at the sale price.  I’m on to them!  I check the price per pound as soon as they pass me the package across the meat counter.
  • I’m taking advantage of the sales on “party foods” for the Super Bowl and cherry-picking some of the loss leaders at local stores.  Frozen pizza isn’t something we eat often, but at 1.99, I’ll take one and be grateful we have it if there is a snow storm or a late meeting at work.
  • My little joy for the week was getting a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Rose soap for $2.90.  I love having a good bar of soap for my bathtub, and it smells so pretty!

Earning

I sold a Keurig machine that we were no longer using on a local mom resale group.  $20.00.  We have gone back to old fashioned Mr. Coffee type of coffee machine.  I am happy to reclaim the counter space.

Investing

When we rolled my Roth IRA over to Vanguard from Ameritrade, DH was careful to maintain our asset allocation so that we wouldn’t fall too heavy into stocks (we already have plenty of stock exposure).  With the Coronavirus affecting China so heavily, this seems like a good move for the short term any way.

Maintaining

In the “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” department…..

Got the car in for an oil change/tire rotation.

Cleaned the washing machine with a cleaning tablet.

Budgeting

DH and I will usually go over out budget every Saturday night and see where we ended up for the past week and allocate any unspent money to savings, home repair or vacation.  Those are our budget categories which are always hungry for MORE!

Hope your week was good!

 

 

 

Easing out of the Christmas Frenzy

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Happy New Year!  We slid into the month of December with a lot of spending and family fun — so much so that we had trouble getting caught up in our budget(!!), and are limping to the end of December with both DH and I having the latest virus that is going around. Forced frugality.

We have been seeking some balance from the excesses of December by:

  • Making meals like chili that use up pantry/freezer items
  • Using some of the teacher appreciation restaurant gift cards I got last spring
  • Picking up clearance Christmas items that we know we will need next year (cards, 1 roll of wrapping paper, and labels)
  • Watching for holiday clearance grocery items that I know we will use, like canned pumpkin.

We did manage to get our budget up to date after several weeks of too many trips to Trader Joe’s as well as hosting various parties. Whether you are a new or a seasoned budgeter, this is a great time to take a look at what you spent so you can plan for it next year. For example, DH takes his staff out for lunch in December, so we always set aside money for that.

I naturally find myself looking ahead 3-6 months for any major expenses on the horizon so we can plan. This week I realized we have a new expense ahead… drivers education for our daughter. It costs around 400.00 so we will allocate money for that. If you’ve been reading this (intermittent) blog for a while, you might be surprised we are already facing driver’s education!

How are you feeling about your finances after December?

 

Debt Free Anniversary

Pink Roses

Stopping to smell the roses….

We were relaxing on the couch last night and I remembered that this Thursday is our debt-free anniversary.  My husband and I had to think back to how many years have elapsed since we paid off our house.  Six!  Every year I have to count back to figure it out.  DD was in kindergarten when we sent that last check off to Wells Fargo, and now she is in middle school.

It takes hard work to pay off your house and credit cards, but it is just as big of a challenge to stay out of debt afterwards because there is no “end” goal to count down to.  It’s just — stay out of debt and keep staying out of debt.

Over the past 6 years we managed to re-side our house, buy a new car, and added  a bathroom to the basement without going into debt.  To accomplish these required a lot of saving and budget meetings week in and week out.  It’s possible to pay cash for these expenses though when you aren’t making payments.  Our next major expense is hopefully a trip to the UK in 2017.  To accomplish this… saving, budget meetings every Saturday night, and using my part-time employment to put towards the vacation budget line.

If you are currently in the debt payoff process, keep at it with that gazelle-like intensity.  Efforts like clipping coupons and having no spend days are fine, but none of these things can rival the amount of money you save when you aren’t paying interest on car, home, college and credit cards.

Thursday we will probably celebrate by getting take-out dinner of some sort, and perhaps a family activity this weekend like going for ice cream. . .  or Chik Fil A 🙂

 

 

Budgets: When The Wheels Fall Off

It’s been quite the week.  We went to the grocery store EIGHT times!  The reason for the craziness has been illness.  It went something like: Kid gets a cold, Parent 1 then gets a cold; kid develops horrendous GI virus a few days later (middle of the night, of course) while Parent 1 now has painful cough.  Parent 2 then gets horrendous GI virus, but worse than Kid!

It’s been a week of buying Pedialyte, Kleenex — anywhere, any price —  and overpriced bottles of 7-Up at the check out because of fatigue.  It was too far to walk the whole store!

It’s rare for me to do laundry outside time-of-use-rates, but all bets are off this week.

noexif_IMG_4633_privateOne small victory, and I mean very small… I made rhubarb muffins from last year’s rhubarb.  I also won a really neat picnic bag and two pounds of Starbucks “limited edition” coffee during teacher appreciation week.

My other accomplishment this week was decluttering some of the English home magazines I tend to not want to let go of.  My mom is going to England soon so maybe a fresh supply will come my way.  It was a good feeling to take care of a pile while I was keeping sick people company on the couch.

I hope we are through our rough patch and next week will be easier.  I plan to come up with some mild, light dinners for the coming week to ease everyone back into eating, and our Flylady zone is the Kitchen for next week.  With a little luck, we can get our grocery shopping back to normal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nissan Giveth, Nissan Taketh Away

Last year I came back from dropping our daughter off at school, only to find Mr. Saver in the driveway holding a chunk of metal from the bottom of our car.  Not good… And a resulting repair that was over $1,000.  Fast forward to this winter, when we got a recall notice from Nissan. Yes, it was a recall for the problem we had experienced.  

  • Lesson One… Open mail and read!
  • Lesson Two… Get on the phone and find out what to do if you already fixed the recall 

Nissan said we still needed to go through the recall process and then we could request a refund for the repair. They would determine what could be reimbursed after we faxed all the work orders.

  • Lesson three… Have a place you can find your receipts.

We took care of everything and submitted the paperwork for a refund of the original repair.  Good news!  A check for about $1,000!

Do your kids ever read those “choose your own ending” books?  

You receive a $1,000 refund from Nissan.  

If you take the $1,000 and hit the mall–surprise money!–go to page 46.

If you take the money and book a spring break trip–you deserve it!– go to page 112.

If you take the money and put most of it back into your car repair budget line, go to page 130.

Guess what?  All the choices end in the same place!  Four weeks after receiving the check your car now needs a new muffler.  Are you left wondering whether you can still return that new purse, or are you grateful that you topped up the car repair budget?  We were grateful for the car repair budget, because Nissan Giveth and Nissan Taketh Away.  

Reality Comes Calling

I’ve been off work for the past week.  Glorious time!  A mini family vacation, lots of play-time for DD, and cleaning up the house with a drop off at Goodwill to boot!  Satisfying.  I know I am headed into a super busy April but the promise of summer break is on the horizon.

Having just that sliver of free time has given me space to do some goal setting instead of just surviving.  On my mind today:

  • Switching out of vacation mode and into “making dinner” mode.  A busy week ahead means a meal plan must be dealt with.  Not my favorite chore, but not planning is 10X worse.
  • Continuing to edit our “stuff”… being on vacation always makes me appreciate how little you need to be happy.  Pat on the back for setting a rummage sale date this summer with my  mom.
  • Flylady’s habit for April is making the bed.  Talked to DD about adopting this routine along with me.  We are pretty good about making the bed, but hopefully the diligence in this area will spill over into picking up clothes off the chair!
  • We reconcile the weekly expenses every Saturday evening.  Now is a good time to make sure we have accounted for summer expenses, especially kid expenses, and fund any categories that still need money.
Vacation living - the food comes to you!

Vacation living – the food comes to you!

What’s on your mind at the start of April?

Teaching Moment… Back to School Budgeting

KIDS AND MONEYOur daughter is headed to 5th grade this year, and this summer has been a great opportunity to ratchet up her role in the back-to-school finances.

Currently our school budget category has about $ 450 in it.  We deposit $10-20.00 a week into the category whenever we have a chance.  This is an ongoing budget category because inevitably there are purchases that come up throughout the year.  This fund covers school fees (yes, public schools have them), clothes, shoes, and school supplies.

The first budgeting opportunity was giving her the responsibility of looking at the school supply lists in July and combining all supplies required into one master list (if you take French, you need additional items; if you take Spanish, something else is required, and so on).  She did that at the start of July which allowed us to go to OfficeMax and get a bunch of supplies for .25 a piece when they started early-bird sales.  We focused only on the items with deep discounts and weren’t tempted by the full-priced items.  Still time for other sales!

A word on school supplies… or maybe more than a word.  When your kid is in Kindergarten if the teacher says you need a Bic pen in blue, by God, you will cross the earth to make sure you buy a Bic pen, lest your child’s blue pen be different than another kid’s pen.  By 5th grade, that is all out the window.  If the teacher wants Pink Pearl erasers, no way am I turning my back on Office Depot brand erasers for .01 as a loss leader.  Ditto on the markers.  If it is a reasonable-quality brand, we are going to live on the edge and get the ones on sale for .25.

Also, can we talk about #2 pencils?  How many #2 pencils do you think a 10 year old could use in roughly 9 months.  Now, about 1/2 the  school day consists of non-pencil using activities like lunch, band, PE, etc.  I would love for you to put your guess in the comments.  Is it anywhere near…. wait for it…. 79 pencils?!?!?!  We should have started sharpening these babies weeks ago! (Note for parents of small kids… start hoarding Ticonderoga pencils immediately)!

Another finance area for her to get involved was to see the amount we had budgeted for school needs and make some decisions about “optional” items like a new backpack and new lunch bag.  I supported her wish for something a little more grown-up and let her look through some catalogs.  She opted to get both items new for next year, knowing that choice may require some economizing down the road. Perhaps by being on top of the school supply sales we created more wiggle room for these “optional” items.

You may want to save on back to school because you have to… funds are tight and perhaps you are working Dave Ramsey’s steps.  On the other hand, you may not need to save on school supplies, but this could be a space to teach your kids about financial decision making in an area that concerns them directly.  My husband and I always say it’s important for kids to have some “skin in the game.”  Now is the time to have money experiences when the stakes are low.  Today’s backpack or Air Jordan decision is tomorrow’s decision about credit cards and college loans.  I’ll let you know how our purchases work out.  How is the back-to-school budgeting at your house?

Side note… if you are hoping to catch information on school supply sales I recommend the blog Hip2Save.

 

 

 

 

Did You Give Your Inner Child a Credit Card?

No ConsequenceesMany things about being an adult come as a rude awakening:

  • I thought I would never go to the dentist when I grew up.  Now I go twice a year and make my kid go too!
  • I thought I would grow up and be able to eat Cheetos whenever I wanted, every day if possible!  My grown-up self fears the effects of that kind of eating.
  • If I had known our income today I would have thought it would be enough to live like the Drummonds in “Diff’rent Strokes”.  Reality is decidedly non-Park Avenue.

One other “unfair” part of being a grown-up is that while we are fortunate to be able to afford many things, we have to save our own money for them! Seriously disappointing!  Even being debt-free has not made a money tree grow in our backyard.  If we say we want something – be it Starbucks, or taking a special vacation – we have to come clean with ourselves and allocate money towards what we value.

That “coming clean” part of budgeting can be a little mentally painful, because my human nature wants all the pleasure with no pain.   This isn’t a pity party, but I want to capture the thoughts that go through my mind every week on Saturday when we update our weekly budget.   We confront our financial choices twice in our house – once when we enter the purchase into Quicken, and the next time when we close out our budget at the end of the week and see what we spent.  This “reality check” is what keeps our inner child from running away with our bank account.  Pout.

If you find expenses like lattes, drinks after work, eating out, or new clothes are busting your budget – or that you can’t commit to a budget – could it be that the kid part of your personality isn’t on board with the reality of adulthood – a reality where the consequences are all ours to enjoy?

 

brokeGIRLrich

 

 

Trying to Stay A Step Ahead of Murphy

One change we have made to our budget process in the last 6 months is to add a line in the spreadsheet for “Large Appliance/Home Repair.”  Our intention with this savings category is to surprise “Murphy” by being financially prepared when something breaks.

Can you beat Murphy all the time?  No, but we did have a recent victory!  Our dishwasher was becoming unreliable and reluctant to turn on.  It was inconvenient, but not a crisis because we had built up funds for such an occurrence by saving $25.00-$50.00 a week when we could.  We were able to pay in full for a new dishwasher and we still have several hundred dollars available. Now that we withdrew money from that budget line, we will put attention on replenishing it.

We also keep a spreadsheet listing our major appliances, the date purchased, and the date the warranty expires.  The spreadsheet helps us be aware of any items that may be coming due for replacement.  If your conventional water heater is 12 years old, you’re easy pickings for Murphy!  When you have been a homeowner for a while it is so easy to think that you just replaced something, only to find that it’s 10 years old.  Knowing a replacement is on the horizon gives us time to watch for sales or begin researching options.

 
*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, & A Disease Called Debt