Tag Archives: expenses

Monday 99: Back in Town, Vacation Expenses

Monday, 14 August 2017

We got back home late Friday afternoon after two weeks on the road.  The trip is a memorable one because we traveled with family and saw places of historical value in family history, seeing where grandparents from the 1870s lived in the middle of Wyoming.  LIfe was not easy back then, although it was certainly cheaper!  Our travels took us to the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Fort Laramie, Teton National Park, and Yellowstone.  We took two days for a leisurely drive home.

Expenses came to considerably less than anticipated and budgeted for because my in-laws paid for 3 nights at the most expensive resort.  This was a wonderful gift, and it was also their way of saying “thank you” for planning and driving.  Their generosity is low-key and without fanfare, just like they are, and this is something so easy to overlook in daily relationships with people.  Loud, noisy people get your attention, but not necessarily your love.

Before leaving on the trip, I paid all the bills due in the first half of August.  Yesterday, I spent about 4 hours going through the bank and credit card statements online, to get figures and write them down, along with paying bills due after the 15th and planning the September budget.  I still need to compare receipts to charges, but it does not appear that there will be differences based on the few I checked – I was too tired to continue with fiddly details, and so will do it next weekend.

Expenses for our half of the vacation are below:

  • Lodging:  $1521.95
  • Food:  $1289.73
  • Fuel:  $200.76 (traveled 3600 miles)
  • Miscellaneous:  $136.71

Total expenses came to $3149.15, or an average $224.94 for two people, or $112.47 per person.  We also paid $420.00 to our dog / house sitter in advance.  Altogether, our vacation cost $3569.16, which is half of what I had in the budget for it.

Vacations refresh the soul and create memories that last forever.  How much you spend is unimportant, as long as you can afford it financially.  Family ties and good memories are priceless.

 

Monday 102: Getting Ready for a Big Trip

 

Monday, 24 July 2017

Vacations are things we all need.  Time to get away.  Time to spend with family and friends.  Time to create memories.  And, vacations do cost money.

A lot of people will tell you that spending a lot of money on a vacation is okay.  Others will shake their heads at costs.  The fact is, everyone will have a different idea what is okay and what is not okay to spend on a vacation.  And you have your own ideas – as do I.  The key factor is to allocate the funds – appropriate funds – for those times you go on vacation.

This year – at the end of this week in fact – we are heading out for a two-week road trip.  Usually we do this by ourselves, but this time we are travelling with my husband’s parents.  One of the goals of this trip is to visit places involved in family history – to see places that great grandparents once roamed, to see where they lived.  There are family photos from the 1870s, and these places important to family history still stand, important in both local and national history as well.  Another goal is to simply see parts of the country we have visited before, and to take the in-laws places they have always wanted to see.  As we all age, these memories become important.  Safety and comfort are also important.

What are the costs going to be?  Somewhat more expensive than I would like, but by the same token I cannot be in charge of everything and make every decision!  Of course I will have some say – but this trip, more than anything, is for my in-laws.  We will stay in B&Bs and historical hotels in various national parks.  Altogether, I have about $6000.00 dedicated to this trip.

Monday 106: A Summer Weekend

Monday, 26 June 2017

We spontaneously left town for most of the weekend.  It was a great way to enjoy the summer, to see friends, to spend time with each other.  Summer, more than any other time of the year, is our favorite time – and most convenient time – to just do things.

Saturday morning I was sick of looking at the familiar areas of the neighborhood.  New scenery, a different place to be, a desire for something outside the usual weekend were on the agenda.  The problem was what to do, where to go?  With temperatures in the low 90s, there was no desire to go someplace possibly hotter and little desire to go where there would be unruly crowds of people, all attempting to escape the heat.  Mr. 182 suggested the zoo!

And off to the zoo we went.  There are two zoos near us – by near, I mean within an hour’s drive.  We chose the smaller of the two, the one on the coast, the one we could get to without driving into a congested city.  And off we went.  Total cost (not including gas) was about $64.00, including a sandwich for each of us.  We spent the day wandering around a beautiful park-like setting, enjoying the sea breezes, and not feeling crowded and rushed as we got there when they opened.

While driving up, we thought of calling up some friends who live halfway along the route.  One day, they invited themselves to dinner, and since then it has been a running joke about inviting them to invite us to dinner.  We didn’t do that . . . but I chanted as we drove past their neighborhood, “Invite us!  Invite us!”

I’m not sure if that had any influence, but that night we got a call:  “Come up for a beach day and a barbecue!”  Sunday we did, and the cost was gas and a couple of bottles of beer.  $7.00.

Our total expenses for our weekend were $71.00 for a lot of fun.  There were no motel rooms or expenses for fancy meals.  We could have packed a lunch and saved $18.49.  We could have brought some home brew and saved $7.00.  The weekend was a mini-vacation spent outside, with friends, at the beach, with each other.  I feel like I’ve been off for a week!

Monday 127: Reflections on a Month of Frugal Thoughts and Deeds

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Monday, 30 January 2017

Today marks the 30th day of Uber Frugal Month with the Frugalwoods.  It’s been thought-provoking, fun, and helped us take action in a few areas.  Overall, Mrs. Frugalwoods and I see eye-to-eye on many things.  She has also helped us look a bit more deeply into what we do and how we do it.

This month’s accomplishments and changes have been small and fun.

The first big change is reducing our cell phone bill from $275.00 / month to $194.00 / month.  We have been able to keep our unlimited data plans for 4 people, a few of whom travel overseas frequently.  Having the plan we have also allows unlimited international calling.  Our bill should drop another $38.00 in March or April when our phones are paid off.  That will be even better.

The second one was fun because we decided to stay within our $350.00 / month (whether 31 or 28 days) food budget.  To date, we have spent $349.98 and can wait until February 1st to spend on food!  Freezer foods help, as we do tend to cook a lot, and then freeze it for “lean” or lazy times.

Fixed monthly food costs for January are within the $350.00 limit, but in experiencing the last few days of the Uber Frugal Challenge, we are well aware of the fact we are out of fresh vegetables for salads.  Thus, we can spend $350.00 / month and be content, but that “month” is really a 4-week period, with an average of $87.50 per week a workable sum.  Therefore, that is a more realistic goal for us, as some months are longer, some are shorter, but the rhythm of shopping every Friday for staples, and then perhaps on Monday for fresh produce is the best choice for us.

The third is a major accomplishment:  we have not bought anything – anything!!! – on Amazon, except what we read on Kindle Unlimited!

And finally, we have cleaned out a lot of stuff in the past month!  Organized, discarded, donated.

But . . . the decision is still out about Netflix and Kindle Unlimited and Audible.  Monthly entertainment runs about $50.00 / month.

Of course, not all of this was smooth.  It takes a bit of creativity and adjustment to spending less, or deciding to stay within a budget.  In discussing food, we realize we don’t really miss meat that much – we eat less than before – but it’s also easy to fill up on quick carbs, like tortillas.  Our beef consumption is down, and our alternate sources of protein is up.  We eat a lot of eggs and beans.  Our refrigerator is nekked as I write, but there are things we can cobble together, and we are not wasting food.

Altogether, I don’t think we are in a bad space about how we are currently spending money.  It is the past which we deal with today.  We have student loans and credit cards and a car payment.  This is what kills us.  Additionally, we live in a high-cost area for housing, which doesn’t help either.  Our mortgage is high, but within the standard accepted rules for income / housing.  (I guess we got one thing right!)  Despite this, we continue to put $1000.00 into savings / month as a primary goal, and adjust our monthly budget around that.  This savings is used for property tax, emergency fund, and for any income tax at state and federal levels.  My income varies from month to month, and so we have to plan ahead much more than those who know exactly what to expect as far as income.  I’m pretty good at projecting, which helps.  Our debt is steadily being reduced using the snowball effect.

Work fills our days.  I work 4 days a week, and some days are nearly 11 hours long.  This makes personal time rare for a lot of the week.  Mr. 182 works full time, but as he is in IT, there are times when he works more . . . and then works less . . . but still gets the same amount on his check.  We each are funding our retirement funds, not at the maximum, but certainly where we get the match from our employers.  More income would help.  Working more is not something that would be good for either of us, in the traditional sense of being on someone else’s payroll in addition to our current employers.  Any side hustles would have to be at our own discretion.  I am looking at a few, but am not sure where they will end up.  It isn’t costing me anything except a bit of brain power and creativity and a willingness to try doing it.

In the big picture, we are content.  We see progress, we are more cohesive, and more creative.  The Uber Frugal Month with the Frugalwoods is paying off in many ways I did not expect.  I have been very focused on our finances, to the point where other areas of life fell by the wayside.  This rather frustrates me, but by the same token, doing anything requires this in order for change to occur.  The results have been a greater awareness to our finances and habits.  In February the creative energy put into our finances this month will continue, and they will be far easier as they are now more of a habit – or at least a new pattern – that is no longer uncharted territory.  This will leave creative forces to return to hobbies and new skills.

Little forays become big adventures into new and unknown territory, always with far greater results than ever imagined.

Monday 130: What’s Been Happening

now-later-sign

Monday, 9 January 2016

Back to work today!  That’s not a bad thing, as I have a job I like 95% of the time, and work with great people.  Certainly that is an advantage.

2017 Goals

Last week I mentioned that we are doing the Uber Frugal Month Challenge with the Frugalwoods.  This is a good place to start off a year which will be, I hope, better in the finance department of savings and debt reduction.  The Uber Frugal Month Challenge is a good thing after the holiday season, and a good way to begin a new year, especially one that looks to be quite different politically and economincally than the past.  So, to begin, we will answer the questions posed by Mrs. Frugalwoods:

1.  Why are we participating in this challenge?

We are participating to jump-start the new year.  With some new financial situations brewing this month (The Student’s school loans and a hopefully good house refi), it won’t hurt to rethink and re-imagine our finances.

2.  What do you hope to achieve?

We hope to achieve a greater consciousness about how we spend money.  We spend most of our money on bills and mortgages.  If we can curb little things, and bring our food costs and Amazon purchases under control, we will be richer and have less debt in an amazingly shorter amount of time.

3.  What are your longterm life goals?

My longterm goals are to retire in another 2 years.  We hope to have no debts left in 5 years except the mortgage.  We also hope to leverage every tax advantage possible, and for that we need to continue to learn about how not to pay taxes!

4.  Where do you want to be in 10 years?

As I said, I would like to be retired, and still alive enjoying it.  DH would probably like to be debt-free and possibly retired, but we haven’t talked about that one too much.  One thing at a time.

5.  What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from coming true and what can you do about it?

Our current lifestyle has one big problem:  Amazon.  Oh, how we love Amazon!  And so does our credit card company.  So for now, Amazon spending will only be for necessities.

To begin this challenge, Mrs. Frugalwoods would like a challengee to:

  1. Examine all of your spending.
  2. Categorize mandatory vs. discretionary expenses.
  3. Identify areas where you can reduce or eliminate spending–and then do it!
  4. Go as frugal as you possibly can for one whole entire month.
  5. At the end of the month, identify what level of frugality is feasible for YOU to embrace for the longterm.

I think all of this is great stuff.  We made big changes this past year, and I hope we can go further.  I would like to watch our food costs more, as $350.00 for two people should be more than adequate.  If we spend nothing at Amazon, our highest debt (lowest interest rate) card would go down by quite a bit.  These questions will help us focus more closely on our lives smaller details as we can control some of the bigger ones much better than we did a year ago.

A bit of austerity never hurts, and I would rather pretend to be poor than to really be poor.  Money is not the problem, it is the lack of money.  For people with our income, we are in pretty bad shape.

December Report

Not all our gory details will go here, but here are some costs, culled from the December 2016 expenditures in YNAB:

Credit Cards: $1711.67
Car Loan: $320.00
Student Loan: $363.00
Electricity: $167.00
Household Gas: $22.09
Water / Trash: $239.54
Insurance (Life, Hazard, Auto): $615.04
Landline: $80.36
Mobile Phone (4 Lines, Unlimited Data): $274.67
Gardener: $100.00
Gasoline: $53.22
Groceries: $437.52
Dog Food: $6.98 (we had lots in stock!)
Gifts: $350.29
Auto Maintenance: $49.99
Household and Personal Supplies: $259.80
Medical: $112.53
Holiday Meals: $36.61
Dining Out: $29.78
Hobbies: $48.31
Cash: $135.00
Total: $5413.40

As you can see, a lot went to overall bills – what we pay every month. We would have about $2300.00 more each month without the credit card and student loan. I look forward to that day . . . sooner, I hope, rather than later!

So, we need to do the work now so we can enjoy ourselves later, or, as Dave Ramsey likes to say:

“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

Amen to that.

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.

Monday 164: April Recap

Monday, 9 May 2016

April was a very expensive month.  Property taxes, income taxes, annual auto club fees, earthquake insurance, and medical bills all worked against us.  The need to buy a car pulled money out of savings in March, and we are still feeling that loss.  As well, a shift in our priorities for payments toward debt will be affecting the $2000.00 / month savings goal set up earlier in the year.

To meet these expenses, and pay on the credit card debt, savings plummeted because we paid $700.00 toward CC#3.  May will replenish the savings, as will each month hence.  Hopefully by the end of 2016 we will see a more solid savings account alongside a strong decrease in debt.  (Sort of like predicting futures!)

April 2016 Expenditures

The new car purchase has not helped our debt situation, but it has pushed us to realize we needed to shift our priorities to a faster debt reduction.  We are both tired of those credit card interest rates!!  In fact, CC#2 decided to up our interest rate by .25 because of the car purchase.  They must monitor our credit daily.  Those rat bastards!

April 2016 Debt Reduction

While we have acquired new debt, it was debt of necessity.  (You may argue, but we will disagree!)  The Amazon spending decreased significantly.

The Bad
We have added debt in the form of a car. We could not add much cash to the monthly savings account – in fact, to meet the payment we chose for CC#3, we had to pull from savings.

The Good
We have significantly reduced our spending in many areas. Food costs were lower than the previous two months, with only $316.60 spent on food. The Amazon seductions decreased, and only the regular monthly charges for Netflix and Audible were incurred, plus a quarterly dietary supplement. We paid $700.00 toward CC#3. And, we still have the emergency fund ($1000.00) fully funded.

Conclusion
Thank goodness April is over! What an expensive month it has been. Looking ahead, I see our situation improving, even though we are throwing a Graduation Party for The Student (not everyday does one get an MS!). Our attitudes are changing, and we are beginning to more easily embrace the strictures which come with the determination to become debt free. It will be interesting to do a year-end recap to see where we began and where we finished.