Monday, January 10, 2011

So, I've been away for a bit

My poor blog has been abandoned!

I kind of got sidetracked last year with the preoccupation of starting a small business last year, that any sort of regular posting on here was neglected.

I had 7 posts last year, the "Year of Savings". Now I'd like to touch on each of those to comment on where we are now.

Year of the Savings: We didn't save as much as we would have liked, and are actually in the process of rebuilding our emergency fund that we dipped into to pay for a conference that we attended at the end of the year. I know, it wasn't really an emergency, but we figured we rather do that than go into debt. Why not save up for it? Well, the conference was only allowing 300 people, and we wanted to make sure that our spots were reserved.

Year of the Savings Update: The biggest thing in this post was worrying/thinking about paying for my husband to travel to his 10 year high school reunion. Well, that didn't end up happening. We decided it wasn't worth it, for one thing, and ended up shooting a wedding on that date anyway.

New Car, New Debt: Last March, I blogged about finally having to bite the bullet, and get a used car. We are 11 months into a 60 month car loan. At first, we were thinking that we'd take out the 3 year loan, but I'm glad that we went with the 5 year, 'cuz that would have been rough on the budget. We definitely plan to pay the car off early.

Insurance? Sure, after you cough up the dough!
At the end of March, I discussed our first time really having to use our insurance. At least we didn't have to go into debt to pay the bills. They just had a meeting at my husband's work about insurance, and the deductibles are going up once again from $3,800 from last year, to $5,600 this year. Our monthly premium is suppose to go down a few dollars, though. We are still contributing to our HSA (health savings account) each pay period, and put the bonus that my husband got this year directly into that account, tax free. His employer has yet to resume their monthly contributions, and we aren't banking on that to happen anytime soon. Gotta be grateful for any kind of insurance, right?

No Vacations: We didn't go on any real vacations in 2010. (But, oh boy, was there a lot of daydreaming and wishing about the places I wanted to go.) We did go to the aforementioned conference (in state) and stayed in a hotel, so in a way, we had a semi-vacation expense wise.

Not going anywhere this year made me realize the intrinsic value of going on a vacation, doing just that- vacating your life for a period of time. How important it is to get that change of scenery. Hmm, so I'll leave it at that. Who knows where, or if, we will go this year?

Entertainment fat : Well, we got rid of HBO ($13), but turned around and got Netflix (now $10.94). As far as Netflix is concerned, I could take it or leave it, but the hubs really likes it, so I guess we're keeping it for now.

At the start of this year, I was thisclose to cancelling our cable subscription. Not because I don't watch it enough to justify the expense (about $80/month), but that I watch too much, and I felt like it was interfering with my productivity with other ventures. The real reason I haven't pulled the plug on cable, because we really enjoy being able to follow are local sports teams, and events on channels like ESPN. It's still on my mind, though.

Snowflaking coupon savings:
Last May, I wrote about snowflaking the savings from coupons. I am still doing that, every time I use coupons at the store, when I get home, I transfer that amount to my emergency fund. I also do that for cast back rewards, and monies from surveys, etc. A little bit here, a little bit there really adds up. The key is to send it straight there, and act like you never got it.

Goals for 2011:

-Get emergency fund back to "baby fund" status (e.g. $1,000) Currently at a little under $500.
-Pay extra to car loan. Currently at around $12,000.
- Look into possibly rolling over Sharebuilder Roth IRA to a Vanguard account.

I want to keep this year's list short and sweet; of the highest priority.

Here's to a great year!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Snowflaking my coupon savings

For the past couple of months, I've been snowflaking to our emergency fund any cash back from our credit card (1% of purchases), and any survey monies from Pinecone, and Inbox dollars.

Now I have another source to snowflake money to savings- coupon savings!

I've never really been a couponer, mainly because I wasn't receiving the newspaper, and I didn't really bother with online coupons. Now that I am getting the paper at home every week, I've been cutting the coupons for items that I go out to Walmart and buy anyway. Items like toothpaste, deodorant, razors, feminine hygiene products, cereals, etc.

It didn't occur to me that I could snowflake the savings until I read a recent blog post on The Simple Dollar site.

Yay for more snowflakes!

It's the small things in life.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cutting the fat in the budget

A couple of nights ago, we made the call. We had to say goodbye to HBO.

It was time.

Wasn't worth the $14 a month to keep it. Plus, we've been busy trying to build our photography business in the evenings and on weekends, so we really haven't had the time (or desire really) to watch some movies on demand. Besides, we've got plenty on regular cable to watch whenever we want to sit down and watch something.

I thought about cutting down to just basic, but then I wouldn't get my local sports channel so I could watch the Hornets!

Our expenses have gone up lately, a car note to pay every month now, and with that a $50 increase to our monthly car insurance premium.

At least this is a (small) start to offset some of it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

No vacations this year, so how about a staycation? Hmm, maybe we should just stay home!

I had said this year was the Year of the Savings in an earlier blog this year. Oh, but in my head, I've had several vacations planned out. Florida for our anniversary, to an outlet mall in Mississippi one weekend for a shopping trip, taking our new (to us) car to faraway lands on some grand adventure.... The bubble then bursts, and I'm brought back to reality. Hmm, just not in the budget this year.

But a girl still wants to have fun, go and do, and see!

Well, one of the things that I have been doing that is very frugal, is following the games of our local NBA team, the New Orleans Hornets. They televise the games on a local cable station, and I've watched almost every one since the beginning of the year, which is like a game every other day on average. We stay at home, watch the games, and don't spend money.

When we stay home.

What we've been doing that hasn't been that frugal is actually going to the games!

A staycation of sorts.

The actual ticket prices aren't bad, $11.25/per person (including taxes, etc). But, it's the gas -driving 1 hour and a half one way-the food there, meals out, parking, and any other miscellaneous thing is what adds up. We went to a game this past weekend, and walked around the city before hand, ate lunch there, then went to the game, and we calculated that it cost us about $80 for the day with parking, food, etc.

So, yeah, we've kind of been feeling a squeeze on our budget by our going to the games (3 times in 2 months).

Luckily for my wallet, the season is almost over, lol.

Feeling the pinch on our healthcare dollars

Let me just start this post by stating that I am very thankful for the insurance coverage that we do have, and that I know if we didn't have the insurance that we have now, we'd have to pay a whole lot more.

That being said, I'd just like to talk about our recent experience really using our PPO high deductible with a Health Savings Account (HSA) insurance.

We have a family deductible of $3800 for the year. So far this year, only a quarter of the way through the year, we'v spent over $1,000 towards our deductibles. My husband had to visit the doctors several times for a few different minor (thank goodness) issues. The bills for those things still keep coming in. I think we'll rack up close to $1,500 once the dust settles. Luckily, we've been able to bankroll, and dip into savings to cover these bills and haven't gone into debt because of them.

What about the HSA, which is suppose to help offset those costs by already having the amount of our yearly deductible saved in the account? Hmm, yeah...Well, that's the theory, anyway. (And by the way, all our dental and vision expenses have come out of the HSA as his company doesn't offer dental or vision coverage. I've looked a little bit into getting extra policies on our own, but I haven't crunched the numbers enough to decide if it's worth it. *sigh*)

So, yeah, it's mainly our fault for not having the $3800 saved up for times like these. Well, what happened was...my husband's employer was contributing $100/month to the HSA. At the time we weren't contributing anything (regret that now). Towards the end of last year, due to the economy, they couldn't afford those contributions, so they stopped. Around that time, my husband started visiting the doctors, and then we started contributing $100/month ourselves to the HSA. We haven't been able to get a good surplus up again, because as we put in money, here comes another bill.

I can't imagine the bills to have a child. We'll probably end up paying the whole $3,800. At least I know that ahead of time, so we can prepare and save.

Well, we've learned our lesson. We're going to continue to put in our $100 a month, and kick in more when we can, and hopefully his company will be able to resume contributing what they were soon.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March: New month, new debt

Yes, we've become slaves to the lender once again.

Well, my 19 year old Honda Civic, affectionately called "The Blue Bomb" was officially put into the unreliable category once it started needing to be jumped every time we wanted to drive it. Not good. So, I gave it to my dad who wants to tinker around with it.

I'd say the car served its purpose well for 18 months.

We had decided that our next vehicle was going to be a newer used car, which we were going to buy from Enterprise. We're all about that haggle free buying. Originally, we were looking at the Nissan Sentras, but once we got to the lot, we saw a Hyundai Sonata, for what we thought was a really good deal- $13,600 for a 2009 with 32,000 miles. Sold. We had wanted the Altima, but had decided on the Sentra because of the price, but with the Sonata, we got Altima size, with Sentra (well a little more) price. Sold.

We went with the conventional five year loan, and planned on paying it like a 3 year loan, but I think we just need to sock that money away in the car fund so we can have the option of paying a big chunk of the loan later, or using that money to help replace our second car down the road.

I have to say, with neither one of us ever having a car loan before, having this around our neck for (potentially) the next 5 years sucks. I don't like it one bit. You could say I have a little bit of buyers remorse. I go back and forth on it. Yeah, we could have waited a couple of more months and saved more, and went with a cheaper car, but who knows, by then we might have had 2 cars officially in the unreliable category (my 2000 Saturn is or about to be on its last leg). It was time to put the Saturn in retirement as a second, "around town" car. And the Blue Bomb decided that for us.

It IS actually nice to get in the new car and go, without one single worry about wear and tear of your car, and will today be the day when it lays down on us? So, from that perspective, it's given us peace of mind.

Did we make the right choice? I dunno, time will tell.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Year of the Savings, so far...

In large part, 2008 was all about paying off consumer debt.
2009
was our lax year, we bought some photography equipment, and took a few trips.
In 2010, our goal is to save as much as we can for upcoming expenses, mainly a newer vehicle.

The other day, I got the itch of the travel bug. I had pretty much decided that we were going to take a weekend trip to visit a relative about 4 hours from where we live. We'd have to rent a car, and get a hotel, plus gas, food, etc. Then I got to thinking about it, and decided against that idea. We needed to recommit to our goal of cutting out all unnecessary trips, and just lay low for 2010, saving money.

The only trip that we might have to fund is my husband's 10 year high school reunion. He'd be the only one to go, and wouldn't have to pay for a place to stay. It's not 100% yet that he'll go, but we are preparing for the event that he does.

To help with our savings goals this year, I'm making an adjustment in my thinking in regards to our car fund. I am going to really treat our monthly "car payment" to our car fund as such- a payment that we HAVE to pay every month, just like a regular note to a bank. Last year, there were some months that I used that allocated money for other things. I want to adhere to this strictly each month this year. When we first thought of having to pay for my husband's airfare to his reunion, my first thought, was "oh, we'll just use the car fund money for that month to pay for the ticket." But, if that were a real bill, I realized, I wouldn't have that luxury of not paying. So, now, I'm just siphoning money into his travel fund, little by little, chunk by chunk. Even if that chunk is $5 or $10.

If I think about a whole year of just saving, that can seem pretty long and daunting, but hey, it's already February! I'm sure I'll get travel fever (or camera lens envy) another time or two (or three, or four) throughout 2010, but I'm keeping my eye on the prize.

The tortoise, not the hare, always wins the race.