Monday, August 31, 2009

Results of the Spend Less Challenge

I closed out my "Spend-less" month on August 30, because I began on July 30.

The results are mixed: I did spend less on house projects and gifts, but I went way over in the other categories.

I budgeted $480 total for everything: food, gas, gifts, eating out, school expenses, and house projects. I spent $740--$260 over budget! I had purposely set my limits very low, with the hope that I could raise them if my summer job money came in. Due to paperwork glitches, I won't be getting that money until Sept. 20. I, also will get reimbursed for $100 of school expenses.

One thing that I have learned from this experience is that I need to increase my budget categories for groceries and gasoline to be more realistic. I really was as frugal as I could be for food and travel this month and I still went over quite a bit.

My overall grade: C- Even though I went over in several categories, I did spend less than I would have without the challenge. I also got back into the habit of planning my menus weekly, which helps reduce stress and grocery costs.

I'm looking forward to the September Earn More Challenge! I think I'll learn a lot.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Menu Plan

Menu planning really does help me get through these busy weeks. Even though this past week was super busy with school starting, we enjoyed eating dinner together each night.
Next week DS will eat out with the cross country team two times. I will eat left-overs on those days.

1. Spaghetti Estivi (Summer spaghetti)
2. Mjeddrah
3. Cheeseburgers, oven fries
4. Soft tacos, salad
5. Spaghetti
6. DS eat out (CC meet)
7. pizza

I'll post recipes tomorrow!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Menu Plan Week 4

This will be a busy week with school starting, the menu plan is simple and easy--I hope.

1. Steak hoagies

2. Crock pot Salsa Chicken, rice

3. Soft tacos

4. Cheeseburgers, oven fries, edamame

5. $5 pizza (Thursday)

6. Chicken wings, mac /n cheese

I'm only listing 6 dinners, because I'm providing the drinks and salad for the cross-country team dinner Friday night.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Week 3 Results

Even though spending was minimal this week, my monthly totals are looking pretty sick. I think that almost all of my categories will be in the red by the end of the month (3 of them are there already!) What I spent:

Groceries $50
Restaurants $5 ($5 pizza!)
Miscellaneous $19.50 (dry cleaning)
Gasoline $26

I definitely will increase my budgeted amounts next month to reflect how much I really spend.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

September Challenge: Earn More

Saving Savy Pinkie made the suggestion that the September Challenge be an earn more challenge--above our regular salaries. Sharon and Christine are already in. I was intimidated at first, because September is a busy month for me, with school starting, cross country going strong every Saturday, and teaching a class at the community college.

This morning, I decided to try the challenge. The Spend Less Challenge this month has been fun because we were doing it together, so I'm going to join the group for September. I just remembered that I have 3 window air conditioners sitting in a closet--I can put them on Craig's list. It's a start!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interest Paid

In reporting how much I have reduced my debt by this past year, 1I didn't mention how much interest I paid. ( I don't like to think about that!) To get rid of denial, I added the interest I have paid for one year. I won't go back any further--too painful. It looks like I have paid over $300 in interest during the past year. Two more months of credit card debt and then no more interest paid. Instead I'll be earning interest on my savings.
On a more positive note, last month I actually earned more interest in savings than I paid to the credit card. Just a little bright spot...Light at the end of the tunnel!

Monday, August 17, 2009

One year Blog-a-versary

My first post on this blog was exactly one year ago. I am so glad that I started this blog to stay motivated in reducing debt. It really helps! One year ago, I was $6975 in debt, now I owe $1970. Over $5000 paid. Yay!

This has been a year of big changes for me--selling the family home, buying a new smaller house, DD and DSIL moving in while building. These are all good things. I like having a little chronicle of the year on my blog.

The coming year will be exciting as well. I should become debt-free (except mortgage)!!! DS is beginning his senior year in high school and DD 21 is in her senior year of college. Lots of life to enjoy now while staying financially responsible.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I have learned so much from your comments and blogs. Let's start Year 2!
What about you? What exciting changes are on your horizon?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Menu Plan for Week 3

This week's menu looks pretty much like last week. The reason for so much chicken is that boneless chicken breasts are on sale this week at Food Lion. I'm really trying to stay within my budgeted grocery amount.

1. Crock Pot Salsa Chicken , noodles

2. Spaghetti with meat sauce

3. Quesadillas

4. salmon cakes, green beans, mac 'n cheese

5. Homemade pizza, salad

6. Savory Crescent Chicken squares Thank you, McCarthyCOH for the link to this recipe--it sounds really good.

7. Steak hoagies

I think DS will enjoy all of these meals except salmon cakes. He can supplement with left-overs!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Better Results in Week 2

Spending has been much better this week--updates on sidebar. I've only spent $5 on groceries and $25 on gasoline. I haven't done the grocery shopping for the upcoming week, but I'm confident that I can keep it close to $45.

Making and following a meal plan really helped. Why don't I do this every week?
The meal plan for next week is almost complete. I just need another easy chicken recipe.

Looking at my totals, I'll still have to be careful for the next two weeks, but I think I can make it under budget in most categories.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mortgage Company Gone?

When I bought my house last November, I went to a small, local bank for my mortgage. I got great personal, fast service. The loan officer, my Realtor and the appraiser all worked together to get everything done in a timely manner.
That was all great, but my mortgage was really not with my local bank, it was with a financial company in Florida, Taylor, Bean, and Whittaker. I have paid my mortgage online through the Taylor, Bean website since January. No problems until yesterday. I logged on their website to find this disturbing message:
Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to offer an online payment option.
Please mail your payment to the following address:
Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp.
Attn: Cashiering
1417 N. Magnolia Ave.
Ocala, FL 34475
Also, please be sure your loan number is written on your check and include any special
payment instructions such as additional payments to principal or escrow.
If you have recently received notification your loan was transferred to a new servicer,
please disregard these payment instructions and follow the instructions outlined in the transfer notice.

Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. has officially ceased a majority of its operations on
August 5, 2009; however, we will continue functioning in a reduced capacity until all
loans have been transitioned to new servicers.

. I immediately started trying to find out what had happened. It seems that Taylor, Bean has a large share of HUD financed mortgages. The company did not file the correct reports with HUD, so HUD suspended Taylor, Bean from writing HUD loans on August 4. Taylor, Bean is being made an example:

"Today, we suspend one company but there is a very clear message that should be heard throughout the FHA lending world - operate within our standards or we won't do business with you," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

The fallout from this decision seems immense to me. Taylor, Bean shut down operations the next day. Over 1000 people immediately lost their jobs. 30,000 (estimated) people whose loans would have closed this month, have to start completely over with another company. The hurt and frustration of those people is very evident on the message boards.

I'm not sure what this all means for my loan. It was probably transferred to Bank of America. My payment isn't due until Sept. 1, so I'll wait to see if I get an official notice before trying to make a payment.

It seems to me that this power play between HUD and Taylor, Bean could have been handled much better. Thousands of people were caught in the crossfire with no recourse.
Dave Ramsey's 100% down idea is looking better and better.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My First..

... award!
Thank you Sharon, for sharing this with me.

"The Humane Award honors eight certain bloggers that I feel are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn’t for them, my site would just be an ordinary blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendships through the blog world. Link back to the person who gifted you with the award and share the love with other bloggers.”

In turn, I'm bestowing this award to 8 bloggers who teach me and make me smile with their comments. Thank you!

Shopping Ethically @ Shopping Ethically

Ms Money Chat @ My Money Chat

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

30 day want list for August

I started this list two weeks ago. I decided to post it now to help curb my unplanned spending. I won't be able to budget for these items until Sept. 15. I'll see if I still "need" them then.

new jeans--My old ones have holes. Maybe I'll look at Goodwill.

brown top--Would coordinate with a skirt and pants I already have

new shower and bathroom curtains--So DS can use his shower instead of mine.

added 8/19/09 small cooler for cross country meets

ynab pro--Since the online bill pay mess up last month, I've been thinking about upgrading to ynab pro.

Now that these are recorded, I'm going to let them go until September.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What happened in Week 1?

I made a side bar to update my progress in the "Low Spend August" goal. On the surface, it looks pretty bad. I'm in the red in two categories and have spent more than half my grocery allocation. The good news is that I will get reimbursed for the school expense (not until October), and I have groceries for the whole week ahead (except more milk and fruit).

What I learned:
  • I've been pretty unfocused this week in a lot of areas, including meal planning. Being unfocused costs money.

  • I spend a lot on snacks (popcorn, chips) and drinks (Gatorade)

  • I probably should make a new budget category for "fun". The spending in miscellaneous was for an inner tube for the "First Annual River Float" on Friday afternoon. Seven of us floated down the river for five hours, with drinks and snacks. It was too fun to pass up. Floating in the water on a hot summer day is in my top three favorite things to do list.

  • Budgeting for gifts is working pretty well for me. This is an area I tend to overspend on, so deciding in advance how much I will spend is crucial for me. This month is DSIL's birthday.

I think that planning meals for the coming weeks will still allow me to finish within budget for the month, but it will take focus (and low cost snacks).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Menu Plan for Week 2

I've fallen off the menu planning wagon since summer started, because our schedule is so flexible in the summer. I've been reading Dawn at Fighting Foreclosure to get re inspired to plan. One of her suggestions is to make a flexible eating plan for the week. I have been trying to do this, but now I'm writing it down so that I can evaluate how it goes. I will plan for 7 dinners, plus lunches and breakfasts, which are pretty much set because we tend to eat the same things over and over.
Breakfast: cereal or waffles, toast with peanut butter and bananas (or tomato)
Lunch: Sandwiches (PBJ, grilled cheese, bologna, egg salad), salad
1. Oven-roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, summer squash
2. Left-over chicken :) I love leftovers!
3. Fish sticks, mac 'n cheese
4. Spaghetti with meat sauce or pesto
5. quesadillas, Spanish rice
6. Stuffed peppers, browned potatoes
7. Hamburgers or burritos (DS choice), potato salad
I'm going right now to clean and cut up carrots for the week. I already have romaine lettuce ready.
For backup, if I really don't want to cook, I have a frozen pizza for DS.
I'll have to buy more milk and fruit mid-week, but otherwise I think I'm set.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dodging Murphy

Murphy has been trailing my car for a few weeks. First, a tire was low, so we put air in it. Next, one headlight wasn't working. I thought I would have to replace the bulb, but when I looked, the bulb had fallen out of the socket. The bulb was extremely hot and melted the plastic covering on some wires. After turning off the lights, I finally got the light into the socket and covered the wires with electrical tape. Crisis 1 averted.

Yesterday, the tire problem resurfaced . The right left tire was almost completely flat-much too low to drive to the tire shop. With no other option, my son and I took off the flat and replaced it with the mini-spare. The local tire shop is only 5 minutes away, so I immediately took the car there, thinking I would have to buy two new tires. I had already decided to take the money from the emergency fund. I was ecstatic when the cost was $15. The tire had a staple in it, so they plugged it and put air in the tire. Crisis 2--not too bad.

I know that Murphy will eventually visit, but I'm glad to dodge him this time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Money Mistake

I just discovered that I missed paying my water payment this month. It is now 6 days late, which is really too bad because the city really has a steep penalty (like $15). I'm not sure how I messed up. I've been paying my utilities online since January and I was certain that I had scheduled the payment to be processed last week. I was pretty busy last week and didn't check my balance closely. When I looked this morning, my bank balance was more than YNaB said it should be. When I checked the online payment history, I was appalled. I'm not sure what went wrong, but I have a plan to prevent future mistakes:

1. Schedule all my online payments by the 10th of each month, since most of the bills arrive during the 1st week.

2. Double check the bank on the 15th (payday) to make sure everything is in order.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Total Money Makeover Encouragement in the Babysteps

I've been rereading Total Money Makeover in order to stay focused and motivated. I'm on Babystep 2 (Pay off all debt except for mortgage). I've found a little inspiration. From TMMO:

Close your eyes and think about what it will be like when you reach this Baby Step (# 3)....When you reach this step, you have $1000 in cash and no debt except your home mortgage.

When I close my eyes and imagine what it will feel like to have a $1000 emergency fund and no debt except mortgage, I am flooded with emotion: relief, gratitude, hopefulness.

Thank you, Dave Ramsey!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August Plan

Making my spending plan for August has been a little difficult for me because my summer income is about $400 less than during the school year. I'm trying to not invade my emergency fund, so the amount in each discretionary spending category is pretty sparse. I should get paid soon for work I did last week, but I'm not sure exactly when it will be processed, so I'm not adding the income until I receive the check. When that happens I'll increase each category a little.
Groceries $240 ($190 left)
Restaurants $20 (12 left)
Gifts $50
House projects $25 ($15)
School expenses $20
Miscellaneous $25 ($13 left)

When the extra income arrives, I will add in $100 for clothing for DS for new school clothes. He is pretty well stocked, but his jeans are getting a little short and ratty.
I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Monday, August 3, 2009

First weekend of the challenge

This weekend was a rocky start to the Spend Less Challenge for me. I got together with three of my friends from college and their children. There are six of us who try to get together a few times a year. I always look forward to seeing everybody and hanging out. This time, we descended on Gail, who lives about three hours from me, and somewhat equidistant from the six of us.
I estimate that I spent about $30 more than I would have otherwise. Here is a breakdown of my spending (and also how much I have left in each category for the month)
Eating out: Spent $8 ( $12 left)
Groceries: Spent $18 on trip, $32 at home ($190 left)
House projects: Spent $10 ($15 left)
Misc.: Spent $12 ($13 left)
Gasoline: Spent $25 ($75 left)

We went to a storage unit sale, and I bought a metal table for my deck for $10. The $12 miscellaneous was a CD of hymns that one of the kids had made.
Overall, I didn't do great on the challenge, and I will have to be more careful to come in under budget for the month. There is a lot of month left!
To see how everyone else is doing with the challenge, head over to Sharon's. Join us!