Tag Archives: expenses

Week 96: Hidden Costs and Monthly Expenditures

Monday, 4 September 2017

With our cell phones beginning to stutter due to old age and abuse, we decided to take a chance with unlocked phones from Costco, ones where we just move our existing sim cards to the new phone.  We have T-Mobile, with 5 lines and unlimited data.  The old phones had little sim cards – the new ones, Moto 5G Plus, have micro SD cards:  a hidden cost!  Our bargain phones are still bargains, but we spent another $50.00 for the cards after buying the phones.  We also bought $8.00 cases for the new phones.  What started out as $219 per phone has since become about $275 per phone.  Is it worth it?

Unlocked phones are nice in that they are transferable from one carrier to another, even if you do have to get a company-specific card.  There is not a lot of fluff on the phones, such as “My Sprint” or “My T-Mobile” or other “features” which take up space and data overhead.  The Moto 5G Plus sports a pretty clean set-up, with Android Nougat.  As we set the phones up, updates came up along as well.  Once we got the details down in the phones, such as downloading apps we use or like, adapting to the new phones was pretty easy.

We have a 90-day return window with Costco, so we will see over the next several days how we like the new phones.  Meanwhile, Mr. 182 will strip down the ones being replaced to see if we can “redo” the older ones.  Then we will decide if we want to keep the old ones and return the new, or not.  We use our older cell phones for things like audio books and picture taking, as well as other weird electronic things Mr. 182 finds on the internet.  The nice thing about Costco is their return policy on electronics.

Our monthly expenses for August were a bit higher than usual because of vacation, but they were paid for in advance.  The mess-up on my paycheck threw us into a financial tizzy, and to be safe, we used our lowest-rate credit card for some of our hotel expenses.  We did this step knowing that we have upcoming medical co-pays which will be about $1500 in September.  In another way, our budget in August dropped simply because I paid bills due in the first half of August during the last week of July.

Credit Card Payments:  $840.00
Student Loan: $786.00
Mortgage: $3797.00
Gardener: $100.00
Insurance: $616.00 (home, car, life)
Dog / House Sitter: $420.00 (worth every penny!)
Clothing: $120.00
Dog Food: $30.00
Auto Maintenance: $20.00
Gifts: $16.00
Household Supplies: $355.00
Groceriies: $458.00
Dining Out: $32.00 (a friend was in from Japan.)

Total monthly costs:  $7590.00, and less mortgage $3793.00.  The interesting part – at least to me – was how much we needed to replenish food staples and freezer foods (meats primarily) and household items.  We live in a high-cost housing area, which is why our mortgage is so big, but it is in line with much of our neck of the woods.

Looking ahead to September, these new phones may remain or leave and co-pays for medical will be necessary.

When I started down our financial clean-up path and planning for retirement, we often found ourselves short of cash every month, unable to comfortably meet emergencies.  Now we can with greater ease.  While not quite where I want us to be, there is improvement overall.  It is easier for us to adapt to financial upheavals today than 18 months ago.

 

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Monday 97: A Weekend Using Things Up

Monday, 28 August 2017

If you have done any reading here at length, you know that we believe that hobbies are an integral part of who we are and our life style.  We don’t spend a lot of money on clothes or going out to eat; we are slowly working our way out of debt.

For us, the area which has expenses is always the area of hobbies.  Mr. 182 likes to brew and shoot off rockets – monthly brew sessions need yeast and hops and malt.  I enjoy photography, painting, and writing.  Photography requires film and developing – I scan my own film, and seldom print.  A digital camera is a one-time investment (unless you get a bad case of G.A.S. – gear acquisition syndrome).  Writing needs paper and pen, or a laptop, or a chrome book.  Painting, though, needs supplies, and usually all at once it seems!

Painting is not, for me at least, a digital art done on the computer.  It needs paper and brushes and colors.  Luckily, I have a lot on hand.  Instruction books are also enjoyable and need to be books, not a digitized version.  I spent Sunday afternoon painting and practicing watercolors, something I always enjoy.  Very seldom does paper go bad.  If it does, or I don’t like it, it is perfect for practice.  Brushes can last for years with proper care.  Watercolors, in the tube, need to be replaced as they are used up.  If they aren’t used, they can dry out and become hard as a rock.  Then, I open up the tube and use what paint I can salvage, not by squeezing it out, but by forcing the tube open and putting the paint in a small plastic square, which then goes into a paint box.

Monthly costs for hobbies vary all the time.  $25.00 a month for each of us gets us our basic needs.  A batch of beer, if there is malt on hand, needs fresh hops and yeast, and this amount covers both.  At times, the amount goes up with the need to buy bulk malt or specialty grains, but we find this is a really good average amount for brewing.  My $25.00 sometimes is used, such as $6.00 to develop a roll of film.  For July, I spent about $114 for supplies, from water brushes to paper to whatever.  August expenses are about $15.00 for more paper.

Hobbies are experiential, and really cannot be replaced by anything else.  They provide activities for the hand and brain and heart.  Connections with people of similar interests also occur, and new friends can be made.  I feel grounded and sane after a long creative session – there is something that makes a soul shift which changes attitude and perspective.  The intense focus of a hobby changes our brain waves, I am sure, much as does meditation or physical activity.

Hobbies are not self-indulgence but necessary for a fulfilling life!

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

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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.