<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Category: Cost of Living
 

Viewing the 'Cost of Living' Category

2015 Spending Recap

January 3rd, 2016 at 01:26 am

I finally had a chance to tally my 2015 spending.

Back when I first joined this site in 2006 (!), I was an avid user of YNAB and tracked spending regularly, but once I left my regular job to embark on my career change in 2009 and first my dog and then my mother in short order became seriously ill, regular tracking (and regular filing and sorting and decluttering at home) all went out the window, so now I content myself with an annual review based on the useful year end summaries provided by my financial institutions.

My overall spending is up by about 6K compared with last year--which is fine given that my earned income is several times higher this year, since I was unemployed for 8 months last year.

Rather than looking at things microscopically, I will report here in terms of the categories developed by Senator Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi in their 2006 book All your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.

They suggest three macro-level categories for spending: Needs, Wants, and Saving/ Debt Repayment, and recommend that 50% of spending go to needs (e.g., mortgage, groceries, transportation, utilities, healthcare, insurance), 30% go for Wants (discretionary spending) and 20% go to Saving & Debt Repayment.

My spending this year is fairly close to these targets: 47% Needs, 34% Wants, and 18% Savings.

Needs 47% of my expenditures were for Needs. Nearly half of this was house-related (mortgage, insurance, taxes, repairs & maintenance), and another 21% was health related. The health expenses are down from last year, though. I took on a hundred-dollar-a-month prescription that makes a big difference in my quality of life, but I no longer have to pay all of my health insurance expenses out of pocket. Groceries are always a struggle for me to cut, at 17% of the needs category (8% of total). Transportation and expenses for my two cats round out this category.

Wants 34% of my expenses were for Wants. Other than not having to pay for my own health insurance now that I am fully employed, this is the biggest change in my spending. Basically, I spent 5K less on health insurance and 5K more on fun and recreation, including joining a premium gym (which I use a lot more than the el-cheapo gym I used to belong to), eating out, taking three short vacations, going to the movies and the theater, and buying books. As my best year of income ever, perhaps I went a little bit overboard here (since I am above the 30% mark), but not too drastically so. In particular, I want to cut down on the Dining Out, for health as well as budgetary reasons. And I will not buy subscriptions to two theatres next year but will be a little choosier on which plays I attend (4 instead of 7). One big expense in this area, which I will probably be reimbursed for, is that on December 31, I enrolled in a CFP program (before the fees went up by $500 on January 1). Actually eliminating that one expense alone brings the total down below 30%. I will be taking online classes for the next 10 months and will take the certification exam sometime between November 2016 and July 2017.

Savings & Debt Reduction Finally, 18% of my money out was for Savings and Debt Reduction. I reduced my mortgage balance by nearly 4K and added about 12K to my retirement accounts and HSA (this number is higher than the last entry because of the HSA contributions). The other personal debt was more moved around than paid down. It started the year mostly on credit cards, as I spent about 4 years transferring debt from one 0% balance transfer offer to another, moved to a personal loan mid-year, and finally to a HELOC by year end. This next year will be another big debt reduction push. It currently looks as though I will pay the non-mortgage debt off by mid-way through 2017, at which point, I will further accelerate mortgage payments so that my house is paid off by the time I reach 65.

So, all in all, even though I felt quite un-frugal in some areas this year (definitely NOT in a mood for penny pinching after having done so for the past decade!), I kept my spending in reasonable check. I expect next year to be similar, although next year's discretionary spending will be less for eating out and the theatre and more for hiring some help with decluttering, home organization, and cleaning.

In Sum The last time I did an annual spending re-cap was in 2011, and I see that my spending percentages have not really changed that much--there's less on expenses related to the house and health and pets percentage-wise, but my overall priorities seem about the same.

Spending Re-Cap

December 26th, 2011 at 11:20 pm

So here's my annual spending recap, with a comparison to Dave Ramsey's recommendations (rounded...he gives ranges). I'll note that my record-keeping was not as precise this year as I normally make it; I just summarized data from the Mint.com data aggregator about my spending and then put it into an Excel spreadsheet to graph it. This means that many entries are inexact--for example, a purchase at Costco might have been coded as groceries but was really half household goods. But the way life was this year, this approximation is "good enough for government work," as my Dad would have said.

First, I'll note that spending exceeded income by about $3000, the balance going to credit card debt. A no-no, but this was an extraordinary year--the "triple whammy" of negative life events.

So a comparison: my mortgage spending looks great by the recommendations, but then there's the "Other Home," which included about $1800 of needed home repairs (water heater and sidewalk replacement). Still, even that total is 32% compared to his 30%, so not bad.

My food and medical are both 5% above his recommendations. The medical is because I paid my own health insurance for 11 months out of this year. The food is always a struggle for me.

My utilities are within his recommended range of 5-10%, even though the #s aren't comparable here (I was making his ranges add up to 100%). My transportation costs are actually a bit lower.

He has 10% to charity and I have 9% to Pets (and maybe there's another 1% to Basset Hound rescue....Pets *are* my charity, I guess).

And of course, he has 10% to savings, which I didn't manage this past year, but now that I'm a working girl again, I'm well on track towards being able to meet that for 2012 and beyond.

Deciding to Re-Finance

December 23rd, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Last year, my mortgage company (Wells Fargo) called me and offered me an easy refinance...no appraisal, no cost (though I'm not sure what that means...I'll have to look at the documents I have from last year to be clear). Last year, even though I was approved for the loan, I didn't go through with it, because I was employed only part-time and still collecting unemployment, and I was worried that somehow things would come back to "bite" me.

Now that I'm employed full-time again, it makes sense to think about refinancing with the rates so low. So I googled "mortgage refinance calculator," pulled one up, filled it out, and, as typically happens with these, got a list of potential lenders to call me rather than an actual printout of an estimate.

I talked to two of them today. Seems like I can go from a 30-year mortgage with 24 years remaining at 5.875% to a 20-year mortgage at 3.75%, AND lower my monthly payment by about $50. Sweet.

And, of course, if I keep on paying the same amount, I lower the payoff date to about 17 years, which brings me to full retirement age (not that I plan to retire then, but I want to be ABLE to, debt free).

So I'm going to do it. Now I need to figure out who to do it with. I have two phone quotes (both of which agreed that I can get the 20 year 3.75% rate; one also offered a 15-year, 3.5% loan, but that takes my payment a little bit higher than I'd like it).

If I stay in the house, I'll save about $24,000 in interest over the life of the loan (less any points or closing costs, which still leaves savings of over $20,000). Even if I decide to move and even if there are points or closing costs, it would be worth it in just a year or two.

I know that with both of the lenders that I spoke to today, there'd be an appraisal to get. Don't yet have the details on other closing costs.

Now I need to contact Wells Fargo and get their rate and see if it is comparable, and weigh whatever that is against avoiding the hassle of getting another appraisal.

This is my first house and I've never refinanced before. Any words of wisdom on things I should look at for as I navigate this process?

Expense or Investment?

October 9th, 2011 at 09:29 pm

Question for you: Are there expenditures you make that you consider more as an "investment" than an expense?

I'm not talking traditional investments here, but things that you purchase that you believe will have the effect of saving you money in the long term.

I've made three such purchases in the past six months, and two other purchases from the past 3 years come to mind as well:


1. A new wool comforter. If I can stay warm at night, I can keep the house temperature cooler and save money on heating bills. My old down comforter actually kept me warm, but about 6 years ago, I was first diagnosed with asthma, and last year, I landed in the ER because of it, to the tune of $1500, currently the deductible on my health insurance. I had previously poo-pooed the idea that the down was making my allergies worse, but this year, the effect when I put the down comforter on my bed was striking and notable, requiring the use of my inhaler several nights in a row (normally, only exercise induces an attack). So the comforter went into storage and I researched replacements online. Wool appears warm, breathable, and dust-mite resistant, as well as natural, so I purchased a comforter made out of wool.

2. A Vita-Mix: If you haven't heard of these, these are basically blenders on steroids, and highly touted by many in the raw foods community. While I'm not raw, I do try to eat minimally processed whole foods as much as possible to cut down my grocery bills in the short term and my doctor's bills in the long term. I haven't owned this long enough to calculate the monthly grocery savings yet, but I am using it multiple times a day and eating more fruits and veggies than ever, which can only be good for my health. Today I ran out of soy milk and at first was tempted to go to the grocery store....then realized I still had a cup of raw almonds, so instead, using the Vita-Mix and a "nut-mylk bag," I made myself a quart of almond milk that will do for cereal and coffee for a few days...saving me a grocery store trip, which means saving money because I *know* I wouldn't just buy soy milk while I was there! Plus now instead of buying pre-minced garlic and prechopped onions, I'm buying them whole and chopping my own.

3. A Nu-Wave counter-top oven. Yes, I'm a kitchen-gadget queen. But I've never had good luck making meats in the traditional oven. Baked veggies and the yearly turkey, yes, but until now, I've only had good luck making chicken on the stove top in some kind of sauce, usually marsala or cacciatore...and most of the chicken I've bought has been in the form of boneless skinless chicken breasts. Now every week I'm buying a whole frying chicken (better size for one person thann a roasting bird) and making it in this baby....then using the drippings and carcass to make my own broth. This machine will also cook meat straight from frozen, and chicken breasts are done fast--15 minutes if thawed, 25 i frozen--so there goes one of my excuses for buying something out. I buy a big bag of turkey burgers from BJ's and keep those in the freezer for quick meals that save me from going to BK's!

4. Not a new purchase, but an old one that I hadn't used for a couple of years that I recently put into action again: my Food Saver. The bags are a bit pricey, but Ball Mason jars are reusable, and if you spend a few bucks extra for a jar sealer attachment, you can buy in bulk and have the food last longer--a good solution for someone who is single like me who cannot take advantage of buy-in-bulk deals without a long-lasting storage solution.

5. My rice cooker--this was the first kitchen gadget I bought with the intent of using it to cook more, and it definitely has helped. A "fuzzy logic" cooker with multiple functions can be used for much beyond basic grains! Mine has a soup and a slow cook function and will even bake bread! I love being able to dump my ingredients, press a button, go out for a walk and come home to a cooked meal! This is faster than a slow cooker but can act similarly, plus because it vents moisture, things will brown in it that won't brown in a slow cooker. Right now the teflon on the inner pan has begun to wear out, and I'm going to have to replace this....I'm considering a gadget by Fagor that has a pressure cooking function as well (unfortunately Panasonic does not seem to sell replacement liner pans).

So what purchases have you made recently with the intent of saving yourself money in the long term?

Time for Another February Challenge!

February 1st, 2009 at 03:11 am

Since February is the shortest month of the year, it's a month that I try to do as much of a "fiscal fast" as possible. No extras, but I still go to the grocery store weekly, take the furkids to the vet if they need it, etc. Last year I was able to keep my monthly expenses down to $2200. This year, I'm budgeting for $2400. Weight Watchers is running a promotion starting Feb 2 and running for 2 weeks that allows you to save about 15% over their weekly fee. They'll allow you to pay up to 16 weeks in advance, so I'm going to do that. I still have 3 weekly coupons left, so if I pay for that next week, I'll have my Weight Watchers paid for through June 13. So far I've lost 12 pounds, and am hoping to at least double that by the time those new coupons run out.

Comparing Expenses now vs 2000

July 8th, 2008 at 03:17 am

I found an old file last night that contained a summary of my expenses that I created in August 2003, so almost exactly 5 years ago. I pulled out the current data and compared the two. Here's how my expenses have changed, and why:

First, there are two categories of expenses I have now that I didn't have in 2003: school books (fortunately work pays for tuition) and home maintenance, as I'm now an owner.

Biggest increase is eating out, up 193%, or 24%/year. Why? Call it either laziness or busyness. The past two years, I've been working a full-time job, a part-time job, and going to school part-time. Cooking is fairly low on the priority list at the moment. Going to work on this.

Next is work-related expenses (books and films I use in teaching, software that I use that's not paid for by work, and office supplies, up 145%, or 18%/year. That figure is somewhat distorted. Back in 2002 and 2003, I was at my poorest in my adult life, patching together a series of part-time jobs rather than having a full-time job (the full-time job I have now began in Sept. 2003). So the August 2003 figure is low; the current figure reflects more of what I tend to spend when I do have a full-time job.

Personal Expenses: up 103%, or 13%/year--mostly because I recently spent about $500 to buy a few professional wardrobe pieces in preparation for job interviews as I change careers.

Medical Expenses: up 71%, or 9%/year

Rent/Mortgage: up 67%, or 8%/year. But back then, I rented. Now I own. So I pay $300/month more, but that includes not just the mortage but homeowner's insurance, property taxes, and an extra 5% that I pay each month towards the principal.

Transportation: up 64%, or 8%/year. Inflation.

Household: up 58%, or 7%/year. Now that I own, I buy a few more things 'for the home' than I did when I rented.

Groceries: up 55%, or 7%/year.

Gifts & Donations: up 24%, or 3%/year.

Utilities: up 20%, or 3%/year. I expect these to soar in 2010 when the rate caps come off in the state (PA). Meanwhile, I've actually managed to cut my phone bill by savvy shopping.

Decreased expenditures:

Pets: Down 6%. Distorted comparison--my Simon was terminally ill June-Aug 2003, so the expenses for 2003 were quite high. He was less expensive to care for for most of his life, and generally Henry has been more so--Henry has more chronic problems.

Entertainment: down 33%. With the increased workload, I've pretty much given up any entertainment other than paying the minimal Netflix fee most months (although I actually have Netflix on hold for the summer), and paying the most basic cable TV bill ($15/month). (I didn't even have cable TV back in '03.)

*************************************

Going through this has been educational. I had no idea that my eating out expenses had gone up so drastically, and actually, I thought my grocery expenses had gone up more, but on a per-annum basis, it's about 7%, which is what the inflation on food has been of late. (That doesn't mean there's no need to cut, though; I'm just routinely a fairly high spender in this area and really could stand to get these expenses down.)

The categories where my increased spending far outweighs inflation are the first three. I'm hoping the personal care expense is temporary because of the big clothing outlay. Two years ago, I managed to spend only about $200 for the year on clothes, for two new pair of athletic shoes, so I know it is possible to pull my expenses her way down.

I need to be more cautious on work-related expenses--it's way too easy to give myself work as an excuse for buying a book, and particularly on eating out. Eating out so much has just become a bad habit. And it's very rarely eating out at a sit-down restaurant--it's grabbing a sandwich and a cup of coffee at the convenience store more often than I should that adds up--not the kind of dining out that one gets special pleasure from, but just the convenience of having someone else prepare the food and not having to remember to take it with you.

Planning Summer Expenses

June 8th, 2008 at 03:15 pm

I need to think ahead about how I'll handle "extra expenses" this summer, given the change in my summer plans (my previous entry). So I'm "thinking out loud" here.

My income from my FT job will handle my basic expenses, but cannot handle multiple extraordinary events--eg a medical or veterinary emergency or a major car repair--there's the emergency fund for that, but if I'm just living off the FT income, as I am for the next 3 months, it's hard to rebuild the emergency fund when I go into it.

Right now the only known additional income is a $300 gift from my mother. I may be able to add some part-time earnings to this.

And there will be multiple extra expenses this summer:

Home Repairs: 1200-1700
Tuition: 400
New Glasses 400? (it's been 4 years since I got some, so it may cost more now)
Trip to L.A. 500 (should visit Mom; it's been 2 years & she turns 75 soon)

That's $2500 that might have to come from savings, and I would expect at least $500 more in either unexpected vet or car repair bills, just based on past experience.

So that's potentially $3000 from the E-fund, minus the $300 gift = $2700 from the E-fund, or 28% of it. Certainly doesn't deplete it but also it will take most of the rest of the year to build it back up again.

I'll have to see what I can do about earning some part-time or temp income over the next two months. In addition, I'm trying very hard to cut back on my food expenses especially (the most malleable), and hopefully luck will be with me and there will be no major vet bills or car repair expenses this summer.

Home Repair Decision

June 5th, 2008 at 02:00 pm

Now that I've been a homeowner for 2.5 years, I have my first major home repair to make--the gutters on my front and back porches have rusted through (they're old steel half-rounds).

So I've been getting estimates--I contacted 5 contractors; 4 have been by so far, and I have 3 estimates in hand.

In any case, I'm going to get seamless aluminum "K" gutters--no need to worry about rust again.

The choice seems to come down to either spending about $600 for .027 gauge "industry standard" gutters, or spending about $1200 for .032 gauge gutters--he showed me a piece of one and it really does look much more sturdy than the typical gutter. The .032 gutters come with a 10 year warranty on workmanship and 20 years on the parts.
I need to call back the contractors for the .027 gauge gutters and ask about a warranty, since neither contractor whose estimate was in this range spontaneously mentioned one.

As I'm writing this, I'm convincing myself to go for the $1200 gauge gutters, at least in the front. The front porch has a roof that still is under warranty for another 10 years and is in good condition. I'm not sure about the condition of the "soffit" or section underneath. The back porch has a stationary aluminum awning which the gutter hangs off of--it's attached to wood strips that are screwed to the awning supports. The awning supports are beginning to rust a bit, and one contractor (the one who hasn't gotten back to me yet) said that he recommended replacing the awning instead, and said he'd give me the name of the contractor. He tried to scare me that during an ice storm it could collapse on my dog. While it might need some new supports on the far side of the porch, the awning itself is perfectly good, and it is firmly attached to the house, so I just vowed for the moment to get a roof rake before next winter. I'm hoping to have that awning last another 10 or so years--if I'm still in this house (and the only reason I wouldn't be is if DBF & I get married), I'm hoping to renovate the kitchen and expand the house by about 3 feet into the patio, which would entail redoing the concrete patio as well.

Also this summer I need to have the roof silvercoated, the furnace serviced, and I desperately need new glasses (it's been 4 years and I'm reading thru scratches). That's at least $1000 in additional expenses there--and, to be prepared, I should probably expect about another $500 in unexpected expenses, either a big car repair or a big vet bill. Praying neither comes to pass, but I can't ignore history, and I haven't had either of those since a $500 vet bill in February, and I usually experience about 3 major "unanticipated expense" events a year. (Hopefully the laws of probability will work in my favor--if things work out to average, I'm still way ahead in expenses paid on based on the $8000 I spent on Henry the year I adopted him!)

Also I really should travel to L.A. and visit my mother this summer--another $500 expense.

Summers always end up being pricey, and this summer my income is low, which means that some of these expenses will get paid for out of savings. I have one more year on my job and then need to make the big career change, so I hate going into savings to do this--which is the one temptation to go for the $600 gutters. They might not last as long or look as pretty, but that's about what I had originally planned to spend (based on the first estimate that I got way back in March when a contractor was working on a neighbor's roof).

March roundup

March 29th, 2008 at 09:08 pm

Well, March was a spendy month; I spent about double what I spent in February (gulp). Much of the addtional spending was justified but still I hate to see so much variability--and I *really* hate it when my spending for the month surpasses my income for the month, even with the tax refund.

Extra spending was as follows:

$600 another expensive vet trip for Henry and his allergies
$165 getting a broken tooth fixed at the dentist
$500 buying the beginnings of a new professional wardrobe as I prepare to transition from academia into the corporate world
$200 in professional expenses (books, software)
$100 stocking up on wine, beer, sodas and extra food for a party
another $200 in extra food expenses--not that the food was wasted, but that it was eaten out or bought prepared, thus unnecessarily expensive
$82 to buy 200 "forever" stamps before the price increases on May 12
$132 prepaying an extra month early on my home gas bill--they changed the date the bill was due and refused to change it back, and I really like to pay my bill immediately after my monthly paycheck arrives and not a week before it arrives, so I decided to get a month ahead to avoid any late fees.
$90 extra prepayment on the mortgage to get it down to 89K.

As so often happens, financial and weight control go together--I slacked off a lot on exercise during March, and gained back 2 pounds. Still down about 7 from the end of last year, but I can feel those two pounds.

So the goal for April is another personal "challenge" month to see how close I can keep my monthly total spending to about $2000. No "extras" this month (unless I get a job interview, in which case I still need a professional pair of shoes), and I need to start back shopping more at Aldi's and Giant, much as I hate them, rather than at my beloved Wegmans. And I pulled out the pricebook I put together two years ago--time to update it since the last time I used it was in 2006. Should be interesting to see how food prices have changed in that time.

And it's a challenge month for health, too--I've joined an online "April Boot Camp" challenge on Leslie Sansone's walk club board, the goal of which is to lose 8 pounds during April. So I'll tighten up and refocus on fitness, too. I just started another round of "First Strides," the local women's walking/running program (that was another $40 out the door); those two workouts a week with other people (in addition to the two mornings a week I walk with my friend Anne) should help keep me from slacking off).

Big Spender

March 24th, 2008 at 01:51 pm

I am about to send out resumes looking for a summer internship, and in the fall will start hunting for a job in the business world (accounting). After a lifetime in academia, where my standard Lands End/LL Bean wardrobe has been sufficient, I decided that I needed at least a few more upscale pieces. So I bought 3 blazers, a pair of pants, and a skirt (mostly Jones New York brand) in preparation for the transitition. I also bought a bit of makeup since I almost never wear any. All in all, I spent about $500, although if I'd paid full price, the price tag would have been about $720, so I saved about 30% by virtue of sales and (eek) opening a Macy's charge to take advantage of the 20% discount (I'll close it shortly after paying the bill).

I feel queasy spending so much on clothes, but then, working at a college, I sometimes see students dressed up in their job interview clothes and realized I had nothing so high quality in my wardrobe, so I figured it was time to bite the bullet.

I suppose I should also have something a wee bit more corporate than my embroidered basset hound handbag to carry papers in, too!

Final Report: My February Challenge

March 1st, 2008 at 09:56 pm

My February Challenge was to do a "fiscal fast," minimizing extras and sticking to spending on monthly bills, food, fuel, and medical emergencies. Total goal for spending was $2000.

On the one hand, I overspent my budget by about 10%, so that the total spending for February was about 2200. And yes, about 200 worth of expenses could have been either postponed (most of them) or avoided (a few of them), but only $5 is spending I regret. And on the other hand, that $2200 is the lowest monthly spending in quite a while, as my monthly spending for 2006-2007 has averaged over $3000.

Spending included 10 no-spend days--more of them in the first half of the month. The second half I ate out more (but had lower grocery expenses) as midterms at school kept me busy (busy for teachers as well as for students!) (note that by "eating out" I mean grabbing a sandwich or bowl of chili at a fast food restaurant and not a full-sit down meal at a real restaurant, of which I had only two, one after doing a 24-hour fast for a medical test, and one after seeing a play (for $5 each) with my sweetie as our belated valentine's celebration.

This month I'm going for a monthly total spending of $2700--still a cut but not nearly as much because I anticipate car repair and veterinary expenses, plus I need to buy at least one nice job interview outfit since I will be looking for a summer internship and getting ready for "real" job interviews come the fall.

Grocery & other weekly spending

February 16th, 2008 at 08:01 pm

After spending $130 at the grocery store last week, I was going to try not to spend anything there this week.

No go on that. All the things that I use the most--soymilk, sliced turkey breast, cereal, fruit, salad fixings, frozen burritos--were used up, so I did replace those. That "basic grocery shop" used to cost me about $35/week if that was all I bought. Now the same basket of goods costs $40/week. Inflation.

Only 1 no-spend-day during the week, but 2 more this weekend, for 8 days out of 17 so far this month total. The kitties ran out of litter and I ran out of feminine protection. Both are items that I order in bulk online, saving money over the long term but requiring an inital outlay, so that was about $100 out the door, but now I'm stocked up on both for 6 months.

I also ordered tickets to a play on-campus for my sweetie & I to attend as a late Valentine's celebration. That wasn't too bad--community members pay $15 per ticket, but as a member of the campus community, I can go for $5/person, so that was $10 out the door.

Total spending so far this month $732, still on track to bring the month in at about $2000 total, barring any household/car repair or medical emergencies. I *thought* I was going to have a big vet bill for Henry, but we managed to avoid it. He has a wart on his nose and scratched it so that it began bleeding intensely--I look up and there's blood EVERYWHERE and it's still pouring down his face. Fortunately applying pressure (and hydrogen peroxide) to the spot managed to stem the bleed. Darn wart's still there, though.

Weekend/ My Feb Challenge so far

February 3rd, 2008 at 12:30 am

Quiet weekend here. I went grocery shopping in the morning, then the rest of the day has been chores, exercise (in-home walking), having DBF over for a pizza & salad dinner, and, for the rest of the evening, studying. I'll end by watching an episode online of Extreme Home Makeover. I'm actually considering canceling my cable ($15/month) since 90% of the time, I end up watching shows online rather than via cable. That 10%, however, seems to be key news events, and $15 is relatively cheap, so so far I've kept it.

Tomorrow will be all studying--trying to do the final exam for my intermediate accounting course from last term, or as much of it as I can manage--there's still one chapter I haven't even looked at yet. And even when I finish the final, I'm not done with the course--I still have exam 2 to do, too--I just started with the final since that material is freshest--but after 6 weeks, *nothing* is really fresh.

I'll be at home all day tomorrow, so it should be a no-spender. Other than studying, I'll probably make up some food for the week--I'll cook up an entree of beans & greens and have that for lunch, and put a pot of split pea soup on to cook all day and have that for dinner. Plus I'll do an exercise video--I still haven't tried all of the 15 that I bought last month in my fitness frenzy. I've been doing good with the weight loss and exercise--8 pounds down since Christmas, and I've walked more than 10,000 steps per day for all but 2 days out of the last two weeks. Three more pounds and I'll be back to my Jan 1, 2007 weight; 10 more gets me back to October 2006 and Henry's surgery, which marks the time that I started putting the extra weight on. There's still another 50 pounds to go after that, but I'm taking it a step at a time. February is a busy month, so as long as I lose at least that 3 pounds, I'm happy.

Spending so far in Feb:

Fri: forgot my snack & lunch, so bought those at the convenience store for $7.41

Saturday: grocery store: $81.81, includes about 68 in groceries, 7 in pet food, and the rest in toiletries. Late addendum: responded to an urgent appeal from my favorite charity, my local Basset Hound Rescue, $40. Total spending: $129.22, which is 6.5% of my $2000 limit for the month.

First Month Assessment

January 28th, 2008 at 03:14 am

I'll do this now, since I get busy during the week. Also, I started my fitness and diet plan on Dec 27, so it really IS a month.

So far: 7 pounds down (about 3% of my weight). I've exercised all but 5 days since starting. Food spending was about 10% lower than last year's monthly average; I should do even better in February, when I won't have out-of-town company coming to buy for. I ended up buying food [bagels & cream cheese, tortilla chips] that the visitor didn't eat and which I just gave away to my boyfriend because it's not on my health plan right now.

In terms of savings goals, I haven't saved *anything* so far--in fact, I overspent in January--$220 on exercise DVDs and equipment and new walking shoes, an unexpeced $500 vet bill (well, not totally unexpected, as Henry ends up with about 4 of these per year; just not expected this month); over $200 in textbooks for the school term, and $116 for a new 3 handset phone system when my old cordless phone died. Some months are like that. Everything was put on the credit card, which I pay off in full each month. My goal for the next month, however, is to limit expenditures to basic bills, food, gasoline, and any emergency medical/vet bills that arise--in other words, I'll eliminate discretionary spending other than that which I routinely get billed for (the $19/month gym fee; the minimum $5.23 most basic Netflix subscription) and see if I can thereby catch up on my planned savings.

The other big goal for the month is working towards the career change. I've got a big hurdle in the next 2.5 weeks: I finished last semester with an incomplete in a critical course, and now have just 2.5 weeks left to complete two exams and the papers. I wasn't able to focus on working on this last month when I found my job unexpectedly up in the air, and the past week, I've been feeling on the verge of a cold and end up going to bed early each night rather than studying. I'm going to be pretty frantic until my Feb 16th deadline.

My, but it's been a spendy month!

January 13th, 2008 at 12:44 am

My almost month-long vacation (college school break) ends on Monday. Something I've found as I've been tracking my expenses for the past few years is that I typically end up spending a lot more on my time off. It's the only time I have to devote to thinking about household purchases, so that's always a big category when I'm on break.

Here are the "extras" I've been buying:

Replacements for broken items where the cost of replacement beats the cost of repair

-new phone system (3 handset Dect 6.0)
-new shop-vac (which I use for my general purpose vacuum cleaner)


New items to make life more organized
-shoe rack for where I end up tossing my shoes in a corner of the living room. Now they take up less space.
-kitchen trash can--old one was too small and I'd have to empty it too frequently so I converted it to hold my birdseed supply outside since the lid has a nice tight fit. For the past year & a half, I've been putting trash in a bag in half of the kitchen sink--it needs to be kept out of the dog's reach (he's a basset and can't reach that high). But I got tired of having the trash be the first thing I see walking into the kitchen. Now I have a nice shiny stainless steel can that the dog won't knock over or be able to get into.
-a few plastic storage boxes for the accumulation of books and notes from the past semester.
-breadbox--to put in bread and my dog's assortment of treats and meds which have been scattered out on top of the counter or on top of the refrigerator. Hiding the mess.

New things generally related to self-improvement or self-care
-New walking shoes. I buy expensive ones because I've had foot problems in the past and it's worth it to me to pay for the quality & support. I'm re-inaugurating my walking program that I was lax on last year.
-Two textbooks for classes I'm auditing this term.
-A portable CD-player. I've had bad luck with MP3 players and wanted something to play podcasts and audiobooks on, so I got a CD player that plays MP3 format to entertain me while I walk.
-Half a dozen fitness DVDs/videos--bought used or as overstock so I didn't pay full price.
-I also got a heart rate monitor & blood pressure measuring device but those were paid for by my credit card rewards, so didn't take any additional cash out of my wallet.

other large expense
A $140 vet bill for Henry's skin infection, and another $150 for a 6-month supply for one of his meds

On the positive side, my gas (heat) bill was actually really LOW this month because I pay on the budget plan and January is when they rebalance and set it to zero. I'd previously overpaid so this month's bill was only 20% of the usual bill. Also I've mostly been avoiding eating out and am focusing on healthy eating, so the food bill will come in (as planned) lower than it has been.

Once I go back to work, the "extras" spending will stop, and I think I'll make February a no-extras spending month and limit expenditures to food, fuel for the car, and the usually monthly mortgage and utility bills.

Dido's Year End Recap of Income, Expenses, and Changes in Net Worth

December 26th, 2007 at 08:19 pm



Income after deductions for taxes, health insurance contribution, & retirement contribution: $44,473 (38,210 from my full-time job, 3718 from part-time work, 1244 income tax return, 1000 gifts from Mom, 301 in survey income and rebates. I need to do better planning to get less of an income tax return; I’m a relatively new home owner, so I’m still having to adjust my tax planning for the extra deduction I get for mortgage interest payments.

Expenses:

Mortgage & PITI (property insurance & property taxes):
$9240. This includes $575 in mortgage prepayments.

Food (Groceries & Eating Out): The books say 7616 (5963+1653), but it’s surely less—as much as 1500 less (2006 food expenses were 6152). The problem in my record-keeping this year is that my detailed records were lost when my last computer died in mid-July. I had to reconstruct my file from bank statements rather than receipts, and since I did a lot of buying at a warehouse store, toiletries, household supplies, clothing and even books got lumped in here—since I had no way to estimate actual expenses, I just categorized everything as groceries, the biggest expense at the warehouse store. Also, when I do ATM withdrawals, I also tend to list those as dining out expenses initially and go back and recategorize as I spend money, but all of those recategorizations got listed as food for January through July. All of that said, my food expenses are way too high.

Pets: $4032, most of that on Henry the Pricey & Priceless Hound, who suffers from several chronic illnesses and is on prescription food and several prescription meds for life, plus who requires about half a dozen vet visits per year. The two cats, Phoebe and Teddy, cost little in comparison—one vet visit per year, and food, kitty litter, and the occasional toy or treat. Between the two of them, there’s only ever been one vet visit for illness—knock on wood, as I hope it remains so. I also include money for bird food in here—I maintain two feeders by the windows for the amusement of myself and the kitties, and that costs about $5/week during the months when the plants are dormant.

Utilities: 3915 (gas heat 1841, electricity 462, phone, internet service, (basic) cable TV (package deal at 76/month for the three), water/sewer 315, trash 385)

Car: 2684 (about 600 on insurance and a thousand each on gasoline and maintenance & repairs, plus my first moving violation ticket ever, for running a stop sign I didn’t see.)

Business Expenses: 2616 (a new laptop computer and software for it (Office 2007, etc), lots of money trying to repair the last laptop, plus the usual array of books and videotapes I use in teaching, and some office supplies and postage.

Personal Care Expenses:2270 (clothing 1304, gym 445, toiletries, vitamins & supplements,521). I spent more than usual on clothing this year, as the only clothing I bought last year was a single pair of athletic shoes, and clothes were beginning to look raggedy and shoes to wear out, plus I gained 15 pounds (which I hope soon to lose) and some items did not fit.

Household: 1691. This includes handyman repairs, items for DIY repairs (that the boyfriend handles), small home appliances, furniture, gardening items, and supplies such as paper towels, light bulbs, and salt for the walks.

Entertainment (385), Gifts (266) & Charity (296): 947.

Health co-pays and disability insurance: 919 (there’s also 104/month health insurance contribution that gets taken out of my pay each month that I haven’t included here.)

Total Spending: $36,430 (compared to $38,653 in 2006. Biggest changes compared to last year are more in savings, less in taxes, more on food, less on pets (no major veterinary emergencies this year, thank god!), a bit more on utilities, clothing, and household; and this year, I didn’t have education expenses because those were picked up by the college.

Change in Net Worth in 2007: +8261 in short-term savings, +8739 in retirement accounts, -1796 decrease in home mortgage principal balance, -1000 loan from mom settled = +19,796 (plus the estimate of my home valuation on Zillow.com is up about 15,912, which I know is not a great estimate, but it’s what I have.)

My goal for next year is to cut down food expenses down to 5800. This is always a “spendy” category for me, as I buy a lot of food that is either pre-made or has a high labor margin—e.g., I buy a lot of pre-chopped veggies, and this past year, I bought a lot of pre-cooked chicken breasts—since that seems to make the difference between my cooking at home or not. Working a full-time job, a part-time job, AND going to school part-time, I do not have the time, energy, or inclination to cook, but I’m going to try to do a bit more so in 2008. I also expect business expenses to be lower, since the big one was buying a new computer this year. Ideally these two cuts will give me an additional 5% to put towards savings.

unplanned spending

July 24th, 2007 at 04:05 am

I got the bad news on Friday that if I had the repairs made on my laptop the bill would be $500-600. Since it was only a $700 machine, that was not worth it. And since I spend 4-8 hours daily on the laptop, it IS worth it to me to replace it. So I spent Saturday researching and bought one (Toshiba Satellite A135) on Sunday, and have spent the time since then getting used to Windows Vista, getting the new machine hooked back on line, tranfering files over, etc. For the same price (after rebate) as I spent for the old laptop 15 months ago, I got 4 times the RAM (and a dual core processor) and twice the hard drive (but somewhat weaker graphics as this one has an integrated card and the other one had a separate video card).

Now I'm trying to decide about an extended warranty. Normally I don't buy them but I feel like I got burned on the last machine so I will buy one this time around...trying to decide between one offered by the manufacturer (Toshiba) and one by the retailer (Office Depot).

belated entry, spending 7/15-7/21

July 24th, 2007 at 03:52 am

For completeness sake:

parking: $5
netflix: 5.29
watch (old cheap one broke): 10.59
personal care (cold meds): 7.62
grocery: 109.54
eating out: 29.05

Spent more on food than intended...maybe because I was sick all week and had no energy to cook, so bought more prepared foods both from convenience stores and the grocery

weekly spending apart from monthly bills: 159.47
monthly bills (mortgage, utilities, annual service contract for heating/water cooler, congregation dues): 1166.04

Year-End Spending Totals

December 30th, 2006 at 03:49 am

Expenses (Not including Income Taxes)

Home: 14711 (8736 mortgage/PITI, 3763 utilities (gas, electric, phone, internet, water, sewer, trash) 108 repairs, 739 furniture, 1364 other household expenses)

Food: 5678 (4611 groceries, 1364 eating out)

Transportation: 2704 (708 insurance, 946 gas, 1005 service, 46 tags & parking)

Insurance: 435 (mortgage-disability & umbrella liability)

Pets: 7880 (!) (the vast majority of this has been due to Henry's illness).

Unreimbursed Business Expenses: 2430 (mostly a new computer & software)

Education: 1141 (tuition & books)

Personal: 1220 (clothing, toiletries, vitamins, gym membership)

Recreation: 1155 (883 for entertainment = books, newspaper subscription, video rentals, theatre/film/concert tickets, an mp3 player, knitting supplies; 272 to fly out to visit my family for a week)

Charity: 600 (edited 12/31)

Gifts: 258

A present for myself (and a bath for Henry)

December 30th, 2006 at 01:46 am

My Christmas present arrived today--a (7-cup) Cuisinart, along with an extra "thick slicing" blade for soft veggies, and also an OXO salad spinner. When I first put everything in my cart, the total was about $170, but I'm actually only paying $40 for all of this!

First got free shipping--that took about $26 off.

Then used my $50 amazon.com gift certicate (which I received for being a "community leader" at a discussion board on another online website).

Then I noticed that Amazon.com was having a promotion in Kitchen & Housewares, where if you bought $125 worth of goods, you'd received $25 off. Hence the extra blade and the salad spinner--that brought the "goods total" to $145, more than the $125, but they were both goods that I truly wanted.

Finally, I gave in and opened an Amazon.com VISA for an additional $30 off. My other credit card bill is down to $355, which means that I should be able to pay it off in full in January (barring any more emergencies). The new card is a "rewards card," where I get back 1% for general purchases and 3% for purchases made on Amazon.com, payment being in the form of a $25 amazon.com gift certificate that gets issued automatically when I've spent $2500 on the credit card. I'm planning to pay this card off in full every month and will transfer money from my savings into my checking account to make sure I can do this. I won't be using it for emergencies, except maybe during the first 6 months when the card has a 0% rate.

Total bill after all the deductions: $40.06.

The Cuisinart, by the way, replaces an identical one I sold at a garage sale 10 years ago. I sold it because I was moving and didn't use it much. I've regretted the decision since. I might not use it *much* but it is indispensible for some things. I've probably bought $50 worth of cheap slicinng and chopping gadgets during the intervening 10 years which I can now purge from my kitchen because they not only take up space but never worked as well as the food processor.

******

I also splurged and paid for Henry to have a bath. He needed one and I need a pro to cut his nails. He's doing pretty well these days (and he looks quite dapper in the scarf they tied around his neck after the bath). The Prednisone is generally working, although an initial attempt to lower his dosage failed and we're back up to the inital dose. He's handling it better this time around, though--no more peeing on the rugs like he was doing the first month on the drug. The drug makes him hungry and lethargic, so he's gained 12 pounds and takes shorter walks, but the digestive woes are under control and he should be off the Prednisone by April or May and we can work thn on getting the extra pounds off and the walking mileage back up.

A couple of small victories

December 29th, 2006 at 03:25 am

Since Henry fell ill this summer, my wallet has had a hole in it that has been immune to being patched. I'd expected that a fairly young dog would cost me about $80 a month to feed, supply, and provide veterinary care for. Henry has been diagnosed with 3 chronic condittions that require 3 monthly medications for life, plus an expensive veterinary diet that I expect him to be on for life since the other conditions apparently derive from his food allergies. Even buying his medications online 6 months at a time, his monthly maintenance cost is now about $250 just for meds and food. Hopefully with the diagnosis and treatment, the outrageous vet bills will go down. Between the startup costs of getting the dog (whom I DID have checked out by a vet first...he had no problems until I'd had him for five months), the vet expenses, and the maintenance, he's cost me about 15% of my salary for the year (in other words, my retirement contribution and my emergency fund.) My baby is well worth it but it's frustrating nonetheless--and I worry terribly about what happens when the contract job I am on ends in August. My income could take a significant hit.

So any savings is good. I have two small victories to report, one pet-related, one not. The pet-related one relates to the weekly urinalysis the vet has been charging me $30/week for. I bought some pH strips (which cost about 10 cents each) and will start doing the weekly reports myself most of the time. I paid for one last urinalysis today just to calibrate my strips against their reports--mine were .25 off, which is close enough (given the scale of these measurements) to accept most of the time.

The other savings has to do with a personal purchase. I've spent a good deal of time the past couple of weeks evaluating various software packages for doing mindmapping, which I've decided will help me be more productive in my teaching and other work. The first time I'd tried to download a freeware program, I'd had no luck, and I gave up and instead became enamoured of a commercial program that would cost me about $100. But I was motivated to try and download the freeware program again, and this time I got it working and am quite happy with it, thus saving myself that $100. (Now I can buy that new pair of walking shoes--the old ones are a year old and I put about 600 miles/year on them, so they are in need of replacement. A good pair of shoes is less costly than podiatrist care!)

*head bang* *head bang* *head bang*

December 15th, 2006 at 07:34 pm

I just can't seem to get ahead. I *thought* I was in good shape to have all my credit card and loan debt paid off by the end of the year. After all the money I've spent recently on vet bills and getting Henry's problems under control (and after last week's $150 car repair), I thought the laws of probability would work with me--at least til the end of the year. But NOOOOOO.

The female kitty hasn't been eating or drinking, and it's been three days, so I brought her in to the vet and she's in the hospital now getting rehydrated. That's at least $350-400 I spent on tests etc for her this morning, and if the rehydration alone doesn't do it, then tomorrow she goes off for a $450 ultrasound. Before that, I took the car in for its regular maintenance service and they told me that the inner front axle boots are broken and should be replaced before they need to start sanding the roads--so I have an appointment next week for another $325 (on top of today's $85 for oil change & tire rotation).

Then today I received the last of my part-time job paychecks, since the last class was last week. That's $840 extra a month that I'm really going to be missing.

Maybe I should start looking for a part-time job for my month off of teaching but I am SO burned out and SO don't want to.

So much for ending the year being out of debt.

Unplanned Spendy Day

December 8th, 2006 at 10:27 pm

Well, I didn't think that today would be a "no-spend" day (given that the refrigerator was empty this morning), but I didn't think it would be as costly as it turned out. Still, could have been worse. Feeling hungry this morning and facing a large stack of grading, I thought I'd go out for breakfast (being in a celebratory mood with the ending of class), then stock up the fridge and spend the rest of the day grading. It was not to be.

When I went out to my car in the frigid cold (air temp about 10, with windchill about zero), the car wouldn't start. I went in and called AAA. They sent someone out who gave me a boost and got it started and then did a load test on the battery and told me on the basis of that that I'd need a new battery...the CCF or something number should have been over 500 and mine was 178. He said he had a battery of the same brand (Interstate) as I had with him and that it cost $74 and he could install it right then for another $15, so I agreed (the battery was 5-6 years old and corroded and had been a bit sluggish as it got colder, so I knew it was indeed time for a new one). It actually took him nearly half an hour to install it--something wasn't catching right--and he worked pretty hard for that $15 out there in the frigid cold, so I gave him a $5 tip when he left.

By then it was lunch time, so I stopped off at the library and then for lunch at my favorite little Korean restaurant. While driving to the library I kept on hearing this ticking noise that had started when the battery had originally died, and when I got out of my car, I could see that the hazard lights would not switch off. I didn't want those to drain the battery again, so I drove over to the dealership. They ended up having to reset the security system and that cost another $52. I also treated myself to a latte around the corner while I was waiting.

After the car was fixed, I finally got a chance to do my grocery shopping, so that was another $90 or so out the door--plus $21 for filling up the gas tank while I was at BJ's since their gas is relatively cheap.

Now I've got a pot of minestrone cooking on the stove, a full refrigerator, and a car that starts right up....and a whole pile of papers to grade that I haven't touched yet. Oh well. I'll tackle some of those, then watch an epidosde of Northern Exposure on DVD and call it an early night and get up to grade bright and early in the morning.

Weekend

November 13th, 2006 at 12:03 am

Yesterday was sunny, so I spent about 3 hours putting the garden away for the winter and lugging 8 leaf bags full of trimmings over to the local compost center. Then in the evening, my sweetie took me out to dinner--the first time we've seen each other in a month, since he's been so busy with web design jobs and I've been hovering over Henry.

Today it was gray and drizzly, so I've been doing indoor jobs--mostly preparing for the week ahead at work, plus doing a little cleaning. I'm having an overnight house guest on Tuesday, so I've got to make sure to do at least 2 more hours of cleaning before she arrives. Somehow it's easier to clean even inside when it's sunny.

I looked around online and found a place where I'll be able to get Henry's medications that he'll be on for life for $43/month (plus shipping & handling). That compares to $73 if bought at the local vet. I'll purchase a 6 month supply with my next paycheck.

Henry's also been put on prescription food, and that's expensive too. Looks like that will cost over $100/month. There aren't as many places that sell pet prescription food online as places that sell the prescription meds, and the places that I could find that carry his prescription food are out on the west coast, meaning the shipping cost will be high. So I don't think I'll be able to cut the cost below that. I spent about 10 days home-cooking for him and that was costing about $5/day, so the vet food is less expensive than that.

I'm greatly looking forward to getting Henry off of Prednisone--or at least, to decreasing the dose, since he's slated for a 6 month course to fully get the inflammation under control. But two more weeks and I get to cut his initial dose in half. Hopefully that will cut down on his incredible raging hunger. Unless he gets about 3000 calories a day (for a 72 pound dog--that's twice what he needs) right now, he starts whining and within half an hour builds up to outright howls, and when I'm not home, he starts pulling stuff off of the shelves...not at ALL his typical behavior. Mon-Wed-Fri I can limit myself to 4.5 hours away from the house at work, but Tues-Thurs are full days, so I've had to hire someone to come in and feed him and let him out mid-day.

I'm really praying that once I can cut the dose in half the 'roid-rage hunger and execessive drinking/peeing will subside to a reasonable level, since it will be another 5 months until he's off the prednisone altogether.

Geez, if not, he'll probably be a 92 pound rather than a 72 pound basset hound.

At least the $$s going in the right direction

November 7th, 2006 at 02:46 am

October was a perpetual money drain...I spent well over $6000, nearly 3 months' worth of normal expenses, in one month. That's over $4000 in veterinary expenses plus the usual household expenses.

Things are beginning to get back to normal. Henry is recovered from surgery, we have a diagnosis, and he's on meds which are beginning to help. Still awaiting the full results from his food allergy panel so I can figure out what to feed him over the long haul. It turns out that he's borderline allergic to the ingredients in the vet-prescribed food he *had* been eating, so I've been feeding him ground chicken and mashed potatoes until I get the full report from the vet. One of the meds he is on is prednisone and it is making him VERY hungry. He asks for a snack about every 90 minutes (or less) when I'm here. I give him just little bits but he's going through about 1.5 pounds of ground chicken (which cooks down to just over a pound) each day. I also decided to hire a pet sitter to come in and check on him during my two long work days each week, since he's now making mischief and getting into trouble by looking for food when I'm gone too long. The higher dose of prednisone is for a month, then we cut the dose for another 4 months and taper for the final month. I'm hoping that once we get to the lower doseage his appetite is a bit more under control! Between food and the medications he's now been put on for life, he's turning out to be an expensive pupster...but a very loved one!

I managed to pay off a big chunk of the debt that had grown on my credit card through all this...I should be out of debt by years end and then back to accumulating savings--as long as nothing else goes wrong!

A $486 tummy ache

September 13th, 2006 at 04:25 am

Poor Henry, my basset hound, has had a tummy ache today. He was fine when he woke up, but his first taste of food this morning sent him running outside to start desperately eating grass. He was drooling copiously and the initial meds I tried giving him had no effect, so after 3 hours of periodic bouts of tummy upset, I canceled class and made a vet appointment.

The vet said his vital signs were good and offered me two options: give him a shot to calm his tummy and take him home, or do an x-ray and blood work to see if there was an underlying problem to deal with. Since Henry has had episodes of this type before (though not so badly), I opted to have the tests done so that I know what I'm dealing with.

The good news is that x-ray only showed gas in his digestive system and no problems. Blood work indicated that kidneys, pancreas, and liver are fine.

The x-rays also picked up two large bladder stones which have to be dealt with before they cause problems plus indicated that his hips are not in great condition (arthritis down the line). Plus he has an ear infection. So I left today with two tummy meds, two ear meds, and chewable glucosamine, plus a week's worth of special low-residue food.

Henry has been doing mostly ok since he's been home but has had two short bouts of his tummy bothering him. He's sleeping now. Nothing upsets me like my dog being sick (Bassets are vulnerable to Bloat, which is deadly, and he was displaying some of the symptoms). I'm exhausted but wired and hope that *I* sleep tonight--I really need it.

Taxes

September 11th, 2006 at 04:31 am

Damn, wrote out a long entry which not only didn't get posted but now there seems to be an entry in my blog which includes ALL of the prior postings, without spaces. Yikes.

Anyways, the gist of the longer post is this: considering a part-time job offer (on top of full-time work), I realized that the true value to consider was not the salary offered, but how much of that salary I would take home after taxes. Since my full-time job puts me squarely in the middle of the 25% tax bracket, that's 25% to the feds, then another 11.75% for social security, medicare, state taxes, local taxes, and state unemployment taxes. That leaves 63.25% of the offer as the value in question. Looks like a lot less, then.

Seems silly to me to tax income--decreases incentives. I'm beginning to see the wisdom of plans that suggest taxing consumption instead.

Came across my budget from 8 years ago

September 9th, 2006 at 02:00 am

When I picked up one of my old financial planning books ("How to get what you want in life with the money you already have"), a piece of paper fell out, and on it was my budget from January 1998. Interesting to compare now and then.

My circumstances are very different: I live in a different state, have a different job, own a house rather than rent, am now in a committed relationship, and I have three pets rather than one. I'm still adjusting my budget to new circumstances since some of these changes (home & two of the pets) are fairly recent, but still, the comparison is interesting.

I make about 60% more--but that's both because I'm at a higher paying job and because I have a second part-time job in addition to the main job, which I didn't before. So taxes of course are proportionately higher. And I save more (30% more) and give more to charity (117% more), but my gift-giving has stayed about the same (I'm a notoriously bad gift-giver, alas).

Going from renting to owning makes a huge difference--my monthly housing + utility expenses have gone up from about $700 to about $1022, a 46% increase--but at least I'm building equity now. Household expenses are up, too, from $20 to $50/month as there's more to buy with a house, especially as a new owner--plus that includes repairs, which I never had to worry about before.

The other big increase is education expenses. I've gone back to school the past three summers, working very slowly on getting a certificate in accounting to add to my credentials. Mostly I take these classes at the community college, but just this year, I finally qualified to take classes for free at one school that I teach at, so that is helping hold those costs down some.

My grocery expenses are up about 24%, but eating out expenses have held steady. That increase could be accounted for by inflation--plus here in PA, I have much nicer grocery stores available to me on a weekly basis than I did when I lived in rural VT, so I buy somewhat more upscale ingredient indulgences--one of the ways I hold down the restaurant expense.

Transportation costs are up 52%--I have a newer car, but when I lived in VT, I lived literally right across the street from where I worked, so I only drove my car to do errands on the weekends and to travel. Now I commute 16 miles daily--but I also travel less. That is reflected in a nearly 80% *decrease* in my entertainment expenses (since I budgeted in travel with entertainment). Owning a home and 3 pets and having a relationship--not to mention more than one job!--I've become much more of a homebody than I was.

The other big decrease in my spending is in my "unreimbursed business expenses." As an academic, I can justify many of my nonfiction book purchases as research materials, and I used to do so quite a bit more than I do now. I still spend about $50/month on books and films for use in research and teaching--but I used to spend about three *times* that amount, so that's a big decrease.

So--lots of increases, a couple of decreases. I do miss the travel and "culture-vulturing" I used to do, and some day will have to do more of it again. The biggest increase over the past several years has been in my overall net worth, so that is satisfying.

Looking at Spending Compared with US Averages

July 31st, 2006 at 05:13 pm

Compared to US Averages (info from BLS, based on CPI)

US averages: 40% on housing & utilities, 18% on transportation, 16% on food & drink, 6% each on medical care, recretion, education & communication, & other, 4% on clothing.

Mine: 30% on housing & utilities, 13% on transportation, 18% on food & drink, 5% on medical, 3% on recreation, 6% on education & communication, 1% on clothing, and 24% on other (my biggest "other" categories are pet expenses and unreimbursed business expenses, which are books and films I use in teaching).

Barely present in mine in the current year (but to change with the resumption of paychecks in September) and absent in the US averages are SAVINGS (where the U.S. average is now in negative territory...can you believe that on average, people now spend more than they earn? Not just the occasional spendthrift, but on average!!!!

Today's Project

July 28th, 2006 at 01:28 am

Ever since I got the dog in March, I've worked downstairs because the dog cannot go upstairs (he gets up but cannot get down by himself, and it's quite the project to carry a squirming 70 pound Basset Hound down the stairs, so I simply gated them off). I've been sitting on either the sofa or at the dining room table, but neither option is really good for long working hours: the sofa is awkward and hot when I have the laptop actually on my lap, and the dining room chairs are fine to sit in for for a meal, but not for hours at a time. So I decided that creating a small downstairs study was an essential task before the new academic year begins. I found the desk at a thrift store for $25, brought my office chair downstairs, and the only thing I bought new was the rug ($39 at a local discount outlet). So for $59 I'm set up to work much more functionally than I have been!


<< Newer EntriesOlder Entries >>