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It has been a Long Time

January 4th, 2009 at 03:51 pm

Happy New Year! Yes, it has been a long time since my last post. Commitments from increased responsibilities at work and graduate school held my focus. I was still able to remain committed to my financial goals. I reviewed my accomplishments for 2008 and updated my financial goals for 2009. I managed to complete most of my goals for 2008.

2008 Goals:

We finally have some breathing room due to our emergency house fund. It allowed us to pay an unexpected tax payment and a car insurance deductible without a major financial crisis.

DH and I were able to take a romantic bed and breakfast trip paid fully with cash for our anniversary!

Didn't stress about paying our life and car insurance. We finally started saving the money every month before the bill was due. Sounds silly but what a light bulb moment!

Used cash money to pay for new wood floors. The current housing crisis led to us finding a great contractor at an affordable price! This wouldn't have been possible prior to the housing bust.

Stayed under or within budget for utilities,groceries and miscellaneous categories. The only exception was the gas budget.

Stayed away from buying wants and used our funds for needs. This was specially true during the holidays. Paid cash for gifts!

We finally have eleven months living expenses saved! Working on twelve months for 2009.

Thank you for all of the good advice that was put to good use for my family financial future!

Positive Thinking

July 4th, 2008 at 03:12 pm

Although, my 72 mile a day car commute is a real downer I found a positive note to my job moving to a new location. I spent only $7.15 for weekly lunches compared to $15 - $25 a week at the old location. I have made more of an effort preparing my own lunches/snacks instead of spending money at local restaurants. My $70 a month for parking at the old location is used for the increased commmute. I am keeping track of my gas expenses for this month. I want to get a better feel on how much I am really spending for gas. I spent $61 this week. The last positive is that I did not spend any money on new clothes since March!! Here is to maintaining positive thoughts!

Car Pooling

June 28th, 2008 at 04:55 pm

I am very conscious of how I changed my driving habits due to the higher gas prices. I fill up when the gas tank is half empty once a week. I think it is mental thing for me to pay $47 - $59 instead of $94 - $118 every two weeks. I know that sounds silly but it my way of coping.

We have been staying close to home lately. Living in the D.C. area allows us to use the metro instead of driving to museums, historic sites and free or low cost events. We also are spending more time walking around the community. It is nice to spend time together due to the outdoor events that our local community is offering this summer. Very cheap date night. That's a big plus! The bad thing is that we cut back driving to see our families outside the area.

I car pool with another runner to drive to our designated running trails three times a week. We take turns once a week and that has helped both of us to save gas money. I also try to combine all my errands (groceries, picking up dry cleaning and etc.) once a week in an organized method without going on unnecessary trips.

I will also find out how much money I saved from telecommuting two times a week at the end of July. Right now I spend $180 - $240 a month for my gas budget. Yeesh! My longer work commute is estimated at $310 - $370. Double yeesh!!

We are still planning to end our satellite premium channels subscription in the event gas is at $5 or more a gallon this summer. I rather have a plan then going into panic mode trying to figure out how we are going to pay for the extra cost. I know we don't have control of the prices but dang it I have control of our budget.

Work and Life

June 27th, 2008 at 06:50 pm

This is my first day of working at home. I got up and dressed for my work day to start at 7:00 am. I ended up with a lot of work accomplished for the day. What a pleasure! I did not realize how much people interrupted my workday routine in the office. I even forgot to take my lunch break at 11:30. I guess I need to put an alarm to force myself to take a break in order that I do not burn myself out. I do need to go to the main office today at to pick up my work cell phone and internet router. This means a gas expense). Frown !

I will connect my driving to work with a grocery shopping trip. I am proud to say that we only spent $269 for groceries for the month of June!! Watching the sales, using coupons and cutting out the processed foods really helped. I hope to maintain my $400 food budget for July.

I finally broke down and turned on the a/c due to the heat wave. Our a/c thermostat is maintained at 78 degrees with ceiling fans on and blinds/curtains closed. The electric bill was $90 pretty reasonable for this month compared to my neighbors $250 bill. She finally asked us how we got our bill so low. We were glad to share our secrets.

My break is over and I need to drive to the office before the crazy rush hour traffic starts!

6 Months Goals

June 24th, 2008 at 10:48 pm

Thanks for the mid year reminder Merch about reviewing my 2008 financial goals. My 2008 financial goals were as follows:

1. Increase 401K to 10% and fully fund
Roth $5000
2. Save $5000 to Emergency House Fund
3. Reduce $4200 debt to $2950 (0%
4. Pay $2088 extra to mortgage principal
5. Help DS#1 to be financially independent

I am on track with my retirement funds. I have a monthly direct deposit for my Roth. I started the year at 10% increase for the 401K. A salary increase resulted with me increasing it to 12% starting July.

$218 a month is automatically transferred into the emergency house fund. Any surplus money at the end of the month is used to fund the account. Still waiting for my economic stimulus check! I didn't really count on it but it would help us reach our goal quicker. I plan to check with IRS on why it is taking so long.

We can do better with reducing the credit debt. We currently paid $830 since February but we can do better. I know it is because of the 0% interest and I have until 2013 to pay it off. My plan was to pay it by February 2011. I can add an extra $75 to have it paid off by November 2009.

We are on point with the extra principal payment. $174 a month is automatically transferred to the mortgage.

DS#1 is doing better with keeping a better handle with his finances. During March he had a problem with him not being aware of his debit card use. Resulted with $60 overdraft fee that got his full attention! He is now keeps track of his spending habits. He pays his school, phone and car insurance bills on time. This is without reminders from his parents. He has maintained his budget and contributes to his (401K and Roth)retirement funds. He is slowly realizing that he actually has more money to have fun. We do not assist him with wants. I think that is the key to his financial development. I did not want to raise a young man feeling that he had his hand in our wallets. Now to work on DS#2 during his summer visit with us.

Update on Finances

June 21st, 2008 at 04:54 pm

I've been very busy lately due to my running schedule and heavy work load. Just ran a 5K today at a decent 10 minute mile pace. I am happy about completing the run. My next goal is preparing for the 8K in July. My running group was key to me successfully completing the race. Lots of laughter and encouragement (especially running up hills!)

My job is moving to a new location at the end of the month. My drive was a 25 minute commute and will change to a 45 - 90 minutes commute depending on traffic. The good thing is that my employer is allowing us to telecommute two times a week. My work hours will permit me to avoid the morning and afternoon D.C. traffic jams. I also received a 6% raise which will be used to boost up my 401K, house emergency fund and to pay for higher gas expenses.

DH has negotiated a good salary and an outstanding benefits package from the new prospective job. He is now waiting to see if the military will allow him to retire in October. We hope to have an answer about his release date by the beginning of July. We are on pins and needles about this because there is a chance that the military may say no due to the current status of Afganistan and Iraq. This has happen to a friend who was due to retire in August but was denied and was immediately deployed to the conflict. All we can do is stay positive and hope for the best.

Our DS#1 has purchased his own bedroom furniture (used) and mattress set (new). Paid in full about $650 in cash money. He is now saving up for a television set for his future apartment. He also is continuing to save up for his three month emergency fund, first and last month apartment fees. He plans to look around for inexpensive living and dining room furniture in September. I still can't believe that he has a plan to move out the house in one year. He also had an unexpected car repair (alternator and electrical problems) that cost him $400. He was prepared due to his saving $500 in his car repair fund. He was very happy that he had this fund to pay for the repair. This is a proud moment for us.

DS#2 will be here in July for the summer. We are really looking forward to seeing him. He has all ready lined up a summer job. He has expensive tastes in clothes and electronics. This summer job will be used to supplement his expenses because we won't finance his wants. It will be a challenge due to his mother has a live life on credit and don't worry about the costs. My DH is worried that DS#2 will grow up living beyond his means. I told him that the young man can learn about finances from us but we should do it slowly without being pushy. Since he doesn't live with us full time that is all we can do. Raising young men is so much fun!

DH New Life

June 11th, 2008 at 04:36 pm

My DH has been pondering the idea on retiring from the military after 20 years. He wants to continue to guide and mentor young people to improve their lives. During his time in the military he has acquired his degree in education. He has recently applied for teaching positions in our community. He has been interviewed during the past two weeks at 3 schools. DH was offered positions at all 3 schools! He has narrowed his focus at a school approximately 7 minutes away from home. The main factor for his choice is not just the commute but the enthusiasm and commitment of the staff and students. He noted that it would be a challenge but he believe that he could make an impact at this school. I support his career change but I worry about the financial aspect to the family budget. In the end we will deal with the budget. I just want him to continue his passion with teaching and molding young people. I hope and pray that the salary negotiation will meet with our expectations. He is so happy to about his new career choice. I am so proud of him.

The Bright Side of the Gloom and Doom

June 7th, 2008 at 04:59 pm

I've been reading a few blogs plus listening to the abundunt gloom and doom in the news. I've come to the conclusion that the most of us are prepared for the slowing economy or working to have stronger financial plans. SA bloggers are fortifying their emergency funds (small or big) to prepare for potential rainy days or Murphy's Law. We are all cutting back on the luxury items (cable, clothes (toys) shopping, vacations, and even Starbucks runs) to get more mileage with buying basic items (food, home expenses and gas). Everyone on SA have blogged helpful tips on combating the high prices of fuel and food. There are SA bloggers promoting free or low cost entertainment ideas that fit a family, couple or single person budget. Bloggers are suggesting ways to find grants and scholarship programs to pay for college/ graduate schools to further earning potential. I love that some are encouraging us not to fear participation in the stock market or investment plans due to wonderful low bargains that can be obtained.

Yes, gas, home costs and food are rising. We all have some sort of contingency plan to for this gloom and doom. I know that my family will be tightening our wallets and purses. I am pretty sure that my fellow bloggers will do the same. The simpler way of life by spending more time with our love ones without spending a ton of money to have fun. Let us not get sucked into the news media fury of financial gloom and doom!

Extra Cash Plan

May 31st, 2008 at 05:20 pm

DH and I made a decision to use my $300 cash award in the following matter:

$100.00 House Emergency Fund
$30.00 Charity Fund
$35.00 Clothes Fund
$25.00 Pedicure
$55.00 Credit Card
$50.00 Personal Emergency Fund (I am trying to keep one pay period of my salary in savings)

It feels nice to have a plan for this extra cash. We use to splurge any extras and have no idea where the money was spent. At first we decided to set the money aside for the gas budget. We have budgeted our gas expenses very well due to us committing to alternate transportation methods, driving at 55 or 60 mph, reducing driving and planning ahead for the higher gas prices. This caused us to fill up once every 1 1/2 weeks and instead of once a week at the pump.

My DH said to use $25 to treat myself to a pedicure after my long run today. I decided to get my pedicure after the 5k run on June 21. It will be a welcome indulgence!

Work Award Recognition

May 29th, 2008 at 08:41 pm

Just returned from an award recognition ceremony at my organization. I was presented a certificate of appreciation and a cash award of $300!! YEAH!!! Totally out of the blue and I didn't see this coming. My boss gave out awards to several employees due to their sustained performance and work diligence. I need to think about what to do with this extra cash. No, I don't plan to spend it on clothes! (I am a reformed clothes addict.) I will dwell on this for awhile and make the best choice for the family. YEAH me again!!!!!!

Free Lunch

May 27th, 2008 at 06:59 pm

My bosses splurged for pizza, salad and dessert today for the entire company. The simple pleasure of working for a small business. This meant that I didn't use cash money for a meal! Using my $5 savings for my charity fund (Manna Food Bank). Life is good and very tasty!!

Memorial Day Blessings

May 26th, 2008 at 07:20 pm

I wish many blessings to the active duty military, my fellow retired and separated veterans, and their love ones on Memorial Day. I know that this war is not a popular cause for many but our troops need to know that they are appreciated. Take time to remember those who made the most ultimate sacrifice. Honor, courage and commitment!!

Making a Contingency Plan

May 25th, 2008 at 10:05 pm

We have been going over our budget to anticipate increased expenses in our food and gasoline categories. We have kept the food budget under $350 to $400 a month utilizing coupons and store circulars. A phenomenal feat with DH, 20 yr old and a 16 yr old sons! To put it bluntly we gave up the processed junk food. This at first was not a popular action but after two months the young men stopped complaining about it. I guess they use their own money for the junk food addiction or they prefer the home made cakes,cookies and fruit.

The gas budget increase resulted with DH using the metro for his daily commute to work. Unfortunately, the metro is not an option for me. I will start to telecommute from work once a week starting in July. My DS#1 work and school is only 15 - 20 minutes away from the house. DS#1 normally fills up his gas tank at least once every 2 1/2 weeks. DS#2 commutes to his part time job by bike.

Our game plan is to cancel our premium channels on our satellite subscription in the event of gas prices are $5 or more. This expense was a luxury that can be better utilized for a necessity. The young men are hardly home anyway due to their activities during the summer. I am pretty sure they will notice it by the time football season starts.

A Parenting Miracle!

May 19th, 2008 at 10:30 pm

I was just informed by DS#1 that he paid in full (cash money!!) for his college tution($516.80) and books($50). He is taking Accounting 202 during the summer to attain his degree at a faster rate. I told him that I will pay 75% of the tution. He insisted that he wanted to be responsible for paying the full amount. He had saved the money after our last budget lesson in March. I don't know if I should laugh or cry with joy. I plan to put the $387.60 into his surprise moving out the house fund. My DS#1 is a young man of few words (really he communicates with us in monosyllabic sentences) but his expression was priceless. This is better than winning the lottery!