Posted in Another Monday

Week 150: Spreadsheets

Spreadsheet on Laptop

As a two-income family, you would think we would know exactly how much income we have every month, and thus be able to budget accordingly.  Not!  My husband’s income is stable, comes in like clockwork on the 15th and last working day of the month.  It is a salary spread out over 24 weeks a year.  The 15th has a penny’s difference than the last working day.

My income varies.  As a teacher, I am used to a salary based on the number of hours given per calendar year, distributed evenly over 12 months.  However, my district does not do it.  The result is an income that fluctuates wildly month to month.  To understand – to guestimate – how much money I bring in, I have to figure out my monthly hours, multiply it by my hourly wage, subtract 32%, and finally put the hours I worked, say in June, into the budget for August.  Royal pain in the ass!  And, it is still a guestimate until I get my actual check.  (But after 10 years, I’ve gotten pretty good at it!)

The plus side is that I really do have to look at what we have for disposable income – meaning, we dispose it in the mortgage baskets, the utility baskets, the insurance baskets, the credit card baskets, and so on.  :-)

So, over the weekend before returning to work, I sat down in Google Docs and created spread sheets that run from September 2016 to September 2017.  I know my work schedule and monthly hours, so I did the guestimated income for me, and the anticipated income for my husband.  And then I wrote out all the known bills and costs, and found the monthly differences – meaning, all the leftover cash not put into savings – and put it into the extra debt snowball payments toward one of the credit cards.  Of course, this number will change with time, and with other costs, but there is some mental security in knowing fairly well in advance what is on the economic horizon.  All of this can change, though, so it is only a projection until each day arrives.

The nice thing about using a spread sheet is the fact that as something changes, using the “sums” part of the spread sheet, I can see the immediate changes and deal with them.  I am not a genius with spread sheets, and Google Docs is simpler than Excel, but I am a simple person.  The portability of Docs is the big selling point, even though MS Office is now on the Cloud.    The tedious part of creating the spread sheet was . . . creating the spread sheet.

Up ahead, we have some concerns.  Rather than telecommuting, people at my husband’s company are being returned to the office.  This will mean traveling in a car and increased fuel costs, an unknown variable depending on where he is placed in an office.  Some office space should be found locally, as it is a global company, but they may think a 50 mile commute to set up a laptop is reasonable (which it isn’t!).  There is office space from 4-10 miles from home, and the closer, the better.  He is not happy.  The dogs will be miserable.  And we will have to adapt.

Still . . . we have paid off one credit card, and that is why we are continuing doing our happy dance!

 

Posted in Another Monday

Week 151: Back From Vacation

Mountain Flowers

Monday, 15 August 2016

We are back from vacation!  It was so nice to get away, and to completely stop looking at all the stuff we have to for work.

Was vacation expensive?  It depends on what you consider “expensive.”  The total cost came to about $1500.00, which includes B&B for 5 days, dinner out every night, a gondola ride to the top of a mountain, gasoline to and from home to vacation destiny, and snacks for lunch.  All this for a total of 6 days.  We are glad we did it!  We are very fortunate to have a most fantastic friend who dog and house sits for us!  (If you are reading this, you know who you are!)

Coming back from vacation meant catching up on a few things, like laundry or what have you.  Bills are paid at this time of the month (around the 15th) as well as the first.  We put a part of the vacation on the credit card we are paying off, just to avoid having to not be able to see where our debit card goes.  That entire card is now paid off!

We return to work today.  I am back on my awful schedule, and the other half is in a position he does not like, and is not a good fit.  He was put there in a moment of corporate reorganization which was not well planned.  And with this return to the routines in life will come better detail on our debt reduction and listing of expenses.  And the realization that in 3 years we hope to be debt-free (150 more Mondays, but who is counting?) and retired.

Posted in Another Monday

Monday 152: Thirty Mondays And What Have We Accomplished?

Try

Monday, 8 August 2016

And so it has happened:  We decided to try, and we have begun to accomplish.

Sometimes we succeed majorly, sometimes we don’t.

Overall, in 30 weeks, we have managed to pay off nearly $6000.00 in credit card debt in about 8 months. We had to buy a new car, but put $5000.00 down. We have saved for special occasions, such as graduation for The Student, planned the funding for vacation this next week, and several family events that, while not super expensive, did put a good hole into the monthly food budgets.  We do manage our money better in the big picture, but the convenience of Amazon is a problem.  We also have hobbies, and those do sometimes require money; still, we manage to allocate money and wait (most of the time!) for our bigger purchases.  And, we have money in the bank, and are saving $1000.00 / month.

We are off on vacation for a week, one we were debating about doing, but the fact is a change of scenery is very refreshing.  Time alone, away from the phone and work, time to rekindle our relationship, time away from the daily grind.

See you next week!

Posted in Another Monday

Monday 153: Still on Vacation Time, and Not Motivated to Write

OnVacation

Monday, 1 August 2016

These next two weeks are going to be interesting, at least as far as having time – vacation time.  No scheduled work time.  Me time.

To start it off, I’m going to go into the classroom this morning to pull some stuff out and put other stuff away.  The last three days have been spent just getting major things done.  Pretty sad, huh?  I said “vacation”????

The thing is, I like my head to be organized, and knowing that the classroom will be ready when I return is one of those things. Then I can relax.  Working summer school and other life things, such as multiple dental visits, took up more time than I wanted, so it couldn’t get my classroom done.

And the best thing to really start off the next two weeks of no work hours is that the other half is off on a camping trip with male relatives for 3 days, and so I will have the house to myself, and that is going to be great, and weird, as I am not used to being alone anymore.

Even on vacation . . . watching our money is important.  There is only $500.00 left on one credit card . . . money is going into the savings account . . . but there is less going into bills and such in order to pay for the vacation and much-needed time off and a change of scenery.  All work and no play are not things in which we believe – but we do believe in thinking about how and where we go on vacation so we don’t break the bank.  The Ramsey gazelles need a bit of rest.

Charts and tables about our finances have fallen by the wayside on this blog over the past few months, but I don’t really care.  This is summer!  But I do know that seeing the progress on our pay-offs has been great, and am playing with graphs.  Those make it even more fun.  I do want to consolidate the summer’s costs into a chart or table, but not just right now.  Or maybe never.  This is time to be lolling around – The Graduate Student is finished with school, work days have been very short, and there has been no real desire to sit in front of a computer to write these posts.  I think August will continue to be something like June and July as far as structuring and organization, but September should be better – get the wind back into the sails when the fall term begins. These weekly posts, even this insipid one, do help remind me of our goals both personal and financial.

So, over and out for now.  Off to play!  That is, after I get home from school.

Posted in Another Monday, Simplification

Monday 154: Lolling Around

Lolling

Monday, 25 July 2016

Do I sound totally anti-social?  The last of our social engagements was Saturday night, a local production – and probably one of the best I have seen – of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream.  We had a wonderful time.  And now, we can stop socializing and get into the whole point of summer . . . lolling.  I love to loll, just kicking back and letting life happen, rather than running around in a frenzy accomplishing things, doing things, going places.  Mental and emotional space to do nothing . . . We are both introverts and need this time off from people and away from people.

So, how does one loll?

You let everything go to a reasonable degree.  Daily things still need to be done, but only to a point.  Bills of course need paying, and dishes washing, and such . . . but being able to take the time to go for a walk, sit in a park, play with the dogs, stroll and loll on the beach, read a book, bake a coffee cake, water the flowers, pick the tomatoes are luxuries in time and space.

What is the cost of lolling?

Lolling is very inexpensive.  It is actually free, unless you need to buy flour for the coffee cake.  To practice lolling, go outside and lie down on your chaise lounge or grab a towel or blanket and head to the nearest park or beach.  Walk if you can.  Bring a book or not.  And then . . . loll.

Is lolling difficult?

If you are not used to lolling, it can be rather difficult.  It means slow down, take a breath, take another, take some deep ones.  Close your eyes.  Listen to the birds.  Feel the breeze.

Summer Lolling vs. Winter Lolling

Hmm.  Where I live, lolling is a year-round option if you really want to do it.  However, once the school year begins, it is more difficult and is, if lucky, a weekend proposition.  Winter lolling, when we lived in the snow, meant pulling on layers of clothes and heading out to walk in the snow-filled woods or scuffling through autumn leaves.  Lolling is always a joy!

Sooooo?

What are you waiting for?  Go out and loll!  It’s free!

Posted in Another Monday, Simplification

Monday 155: More Progress, and Some Thoughts

Inspiration

Monday, 18 July 2016

The other day I took a friend out to dinner and put it on the credit card I am paying off.  The next day was pay-day, so in addition to the planned $500.00 payment, I threw on what I paid for dinner, and then some.  That card’s balance, as of this morning, is $999.82.  Two more payments, and then we are done with it!  That feels more than good!

Inspiration

I read a number of financial independence (FI) blogs, many of which are truly inspiring.  Some are less so.  Some are hysterically funny.  The common theme, though, of FI is what makes all of them readable.  Each one of us on our path to getting out of debt is a different story.  Some people figured this out early in life; others have had to be hit over the head with a ton of bricks to get on track.  Some are young, some are middle-aged, and maybe a few are ancient, like me, who want to retire with some comfort.  What it comes down to is that the realization that there is freedom in financial independence.  Each unique story is something I can relate to, and each story required – and continues to require – a certain mindset, a focus on the goal.  And those who have reached their goals sometimes find themselves floundering for a new goal.  That is to be expected.

Books

I honestly prefer a good novel over self-help and financial books.  Textbooks put me to sleep.  Writing style in FI books is really important to me – clarity, ease of reading (not meaning dumbed-down, but meaning clean, clear writing), and sensical.  For me, it started with looking at my financial mess, and wanting to retire.  The book I chose was the one which has inspired many, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.  Now, I am reading JH Collins The Simple Path to Wealth.  One lesson I am learning is I prefer simplicity in finances, and don’t want to play the stock market game any more.  I don’t want to spend my remaining years in life doing things I don’t really want to do.

Looking Ahead

Retirement is in about 3 years.  I need to start understanding my retirement plan, understand what monies and options I will have available.  It will be combined with social security.  Based on what I know at the moment, I will be fairly comfortable, and with a spouse still working (provided nothing happens to his job), we will maintain our current life style comfortably, and closer than ever to being debt-free but for the house.   Because I am focusing on our FI, I will also begin focusing on how to best manage and understand my retirement funds, a lot of which will be invested for my husband’s future.

Posted in Another Monday

Monday 155: A Quick Look at the Balancing Act

Balancing Act

Monday, 11 July 2016

Summer is in full swing here, and with having unscheduled free time which I am not used to having, I am at a total loss.  It’s extremely difficult to focus on things that I normally do, things like projects and such.  I am biting off far more than I can chew, and have decided to narrow down my “to do” list considerably.  It takes time to readjust to having time.  However, despite that, we have made some very serious inroads to paying down debt, but summer activities with family nearly every weekend are beginning to add up.  In just four weeks we have had birthday parties, weddings, and theater!

The big news is that we have taken one credit card, #3, from a balance 4169.28 at the end of May down to 1500.00 by paying it off with extra cash.  We changed our savings plan from $1000 every two weeks to $500 every two weeks, as we had done originally at the beginning of the year.  Every pay period (1st and 15th) we have been throwing $500 at CC#3.  If all goes according to this schedule, we will have paid it off by August 15th.  That is good, good news!  We also have extra cash for hot tub removal (425.00) and vacation.  CC#1 continues to stay even, but CC#2 is steadily going down.  Once CC#3 is done, we will dedicate our payments to CC#2, which has an awful interest rate . . .