Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday: Hotel Room Cooking and Other Stuff

We got hit with a $3000 medical bill so I will be tightening the belt even more over the next 6 months to compensate.  I've set a $100 a month budget each for Amazon and Target.  This is where most of our household shopping is done and I need to set a strict spending limit.

And in the next breath ...

I just purchased a Black & Decker DB1002B Double-Burner Portable Buffet Range in Black from Amazon.  This gizmo will be coming with me this week on an overnight hotel stay/trial run, as well as along for the ride when we take off in April for an already booked and paid for 10-day trip.  Some people might say that taking my own 'stove top', frying pan, saucepans, utensils, etc is overkill and OTT but to them I say ..... I have lived and indulged PLENTY and now have no qualms about cooking beans in a hotel room.  This is new territory for us and the spouse is in two minds about the feasibility of hotel room cuisine, but willing to entertain my battiness.  What more could I ask for?  I'm working on equipment list, menu and food storage.  This could be fun!

I was thinking about increasing the monthly mortgage payment to $1500/month but have decided against it.  The balance will be in the $40,000s by the end of this year anyway so I think we will just slog along with our regular monthly payment and bank that extra money that would've gone towards paying the mortgage off early.  It doesn't make that much of a difference to us at this point.

I was going to pay off Capital One's $4000 credit card bill in 4 payments of $1000 but nixed that idea too.  This bill is the result of college expenses.  I think I will just pay the monthly amount due + a bit extra towards principal and leave it at that for now. I would rather have the extra money in the bank account.  I also perversely want to have this bill 'hanging over my head' as a reminder that I HATE credit card debt and that it is always in our best interests not to incur it in the first place.   Two more months of college and then the kid graduates and we are FREE from college expenses forever (I hope)!!

Everything else is going along swimmingly at the moment. I made a chicken pot pie for the first time ever for dinner and it was so tasty.  A recipe keeper.

Friday, January 27, 2017

January 2017 Finances

My fiscal January began on Saturday December 31st and ran through today, Friday the 27th.  I track all our expenses, assets and savings in a spreadsheet using a variety of categories and I am able to see our entire financial picture on one screen which I LOVE.  This spreadsheet has been completely the one thing that has enabled me to change my financial picture.  In good times and bad, I have tracked our finances since January 2008 in good detail without fail.  My OCD kicks in without a doubt but, in this case, it has been a good thing. 

Here are some 'highlights':

1.  Achieved food spending goal of $144/wk for 3 adults.  This includes all food from all sources (grocery stores, restaurants, Starbucks, etc)  We did not visit any restaurants at all in January.  We went to Starbucks once.  Goal is $576 for the month ~ I came in at $572.  I will try to drop the weekly spend down to $140/week in February.  I write out a weekly menu plan and never shop without a list.

2.  I have set a family goal of giving up restaurants entirely for the year.  If people want to invite us to go out to eat, we will explain our situation.  If they still insist and offer to spring, they will have to pay for the meal.  Otherwise, we will decline the invitation.  We just don't enjoy buying overpriced, underwhelming meals any more.  The only exception will be vacations and trips.  The plan is to take our food with us along with pots, pans and a portable cooking range but if that isn't feasible, restaurants might be our only recourse.  I'll update our restaurant activity (or lack of it) each month.  We have a vacation booked for April.

3Gasoline spending was $66 for the month.  The spouse works close to home and, as we only have one car now, I'm trapped in the house daily while our car sits in the parking lot at work.  If I need to go post a letter/package or go to the store, I walk.

4Numerous No Spend days.  There are many days now during which I spend zero dollars.  2017 will be seeing many more of these types of days.  We just don't need anything apart from food.  Closets are stuffed with unworn clothing and we have all the furniture we need.  Our kitchen is well stocked with appliances and the necessary utensils to cook any and everything. I have been improving our kitchen situation for the past couple of years.  There was a time when I didn't even have a decent frying pan.

5Household bills: Electric, gas, water, internet, cell phone, insurance, trash pickup, Netflix, XBox .... all under control and well within limits.

6Credit Cards:  All paid off, balances at zero with the exception of Capital One which sits just below $4000.  I'll probably pay this off at the rate of $1000 a month and get rid of it.

7Savings Balances:  All going up right now.  With a 4% annual withdrawal rate, we will be self sufficient in retirement but it is proving difficult to break away from the psychological aspect of bringing home a weekly paycheck.  The spouse is having trouble with this, he can't imagine that we are now in a position of self reliance after years of dealing with my overspending and hoarding prior to 2008.  My financial mismanagement of yore has left deep and lasting scars.

8Mortgage:  Balance is $56,992.  Plan is to pay this off within 5 years' time.  We could pay the mortgage off today but the money is doing us more good in investments than it would be sunk into this house.  Essentially, we don't need to have a mortgage but ....we do have one .... for that reason.

9Credit Score:  My credit score used to be in the 400s, as was the spouse's (because of me).  Today, my score is 721 and the spouse is 724.  This marks the first time in our lives that we have had scores in the 700s.  Goal is 760+.

10Financial Goals for February:
   1.  Increase checking account balance by at least $1000.
   2.  Food spending under $560.  No restaurants.
   3.  As many 'No Spending Days' as possible.
   4.  Sell some stuff on Craigslist.  Continue downsizing.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Mixed Bag

It's a cold day with an icy wind here in the desert today!  The rain has stopped temporarily but there is more on the way.  It's a nice change of pace in the weather for us and I'm enjoying the respite before the temperatures will soon heat up again.

All is quiet here.  The spouse is working overtime on a project and bringing home more bacon than usual, which has enabled us to pay down credit card debt much faster than we'd hoped.  We are finding ourselves in a stronger place financially now that the kids have all just about finished with college.

I've been cleaning and decluttering: it's a continual process.  May 15th will mark the 10 year anniversary of the day that I began to realize that I was in dire financial straits again, sinking into foreclosure and bankruptcy.  Again.  May 15th 2007.  Has it really been 10 years?  I think if I'd known back then that it would take 10 years for me personally to get my attitudes and my financial house in order, I may well have become so disheartened that I would've stopped before I started!!  Thank goodness I didn't know how long it would take me.

I'm doing well with my grocery challenge.  I have $144 a week to spend on any and all food expenditures including Starbucks and restaurants but I am finding that there is no money left over for Starbucks and restaurants!  All of my budget is spent at my usual grocery stores for the ingredients for home cooked meals and work day lunches.  There are 3 adults living at home right now so it works out to $48/week/person.  I buy a lot of organic food too.  If I cut down on the organics, my bill would be lower but I'm not willing to do that so ....

I've started to separate the clothing in my closet into the stuff I wear all the time vs the stuff I never seem to wear.  I put the stuff I never wear into a different room's closet so that I don't have to look at it and the result is that I never go looking for it and I don't miss it.  Does this mean I should donate it?  I can't imagine how much money I've lost over the years in donating the results of my impulsive shopping trips for clothing I never needed ~ thousands of dollars worth without a doubt.  I used to take black trash bags filled with never-been-worn clothing with the price tags still attached to the local women's shelter thrift shop.  I haven't done that in a while but maybe I should make one last trip?  I'm giving it serious consideration.

I heard from a family member in the UK that my father's most recent operation to correct urinary incontinence was unsuccessful.  He will have to wear a catheter now to the end of his days.  I get the feeling that both of my parents are not long for this world but I have already let go.  I'm aware that most people wouldn't understand my stance in letting go before they're gone, but then most people didn't live the harrowing childhood that I lived with a male parent who victimized little kids.  Some things are just unforgivable and I battle daily with my inability to forgive.  I find myself reaching a certain point of forgiveness but then completely unable to progress beyond that given point to a place of total forgiveness.  I cannot seem to get there just yet but I'm determined to find peace with my mindset anyway.

So that's where things are at today.  Life is good and we are healthy.  I am grateful for my life in America and I adore my spouse.  I am looking forward to the future.