Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Monday Money Updates- How is my family doing?

I've decided that I would take every Monday to update you all on how our family is doing. I've thought a lot about our credit cards. I am wondering if I am missing out on all of those points by using our debit card, but then I think, "This is exactly what the credit cards want you to feel!" I feel like we're teetering a bit as we find our footing, but I think that within a few months we'll have found a budget that suits us well. I have not purchased any miscellaneous items, eating out has been cut down to almost nil, and I've even paid some bills in advance. We're cutting it close until the next payday though... You see, I decided to sign us up to pay our mortgage every 2 weeks instead of monthly so some months they are taking a third payment. Although it hurts, it should shave off about 5 years from our 30 year mortgage. Eventually I would love to pay it weekly, if not, refinance to a 15 year mortgage. My goal is to have the house paid off in 15-19 years so we're not stuck with a mortgage payment AND college payments. The only dilemma seems to be that you lose some tax benefits if you no longer have a mortgage you are paying so I guess I need to be careful and not win the lotto or something.
I am going to watch some tutorials on how to shop at CVS and Walgreens. How crazy is that? I am watching TUTORIALS so I can shop at PHARMACIES. Wild. My P.O.A. (plan of attack) is to buy all toiletries and some snack foods at the pharmacies because it seems you can often get these for practically free (or nothing!) at the latter and then buy fresh meats, fruits, etc. at the grocery store using coupons. I'll keep you all posted on how that goes.
I am trying to sell EVERYTHING that can be sold for money through Craigslist. Nothing is being donated at this time. Right now I am cleaning out my closet so I can run down to the consignment shop. It is worth trying to sell the clothes if I was planning on donating them anyway, right? It might give me enough money to get a few new things as I realized that I am still wearing clothes I purchased 15+ years ago! Anyone else doing this? My husband and I both need to go shop... we kind of lost touch with fashion when we had kids and then moved to an area with NO mall. You can only get so much at Target, you know?
Lastly, we are saving for Christmas and a vacation. We desperately need to get away. It is time for some R&R. We are both so tired of staying local and not enjoying ourselves and our time with the kids. We need something inexpensive so we may be crashing at a friend's home, or family member's, but with 2 kiddos we need a little more room than we used to.
My piece of advice this week to all of you is to save, save, save. Figure out how much your HOA fees are, for example, then set that amount aside monthly. You'll have that saved up instead of having to find $200/$300+ dollars all at once and at the last minute. It is well worth it.
So... we've stuck by it- no CC usage! It feels great- can't believe we're doing it so far. We have a long way to go, but so far, so good. To be honest, I'm not really missing anything right now. There are big-ticket items I would like, but we'll just have to save up for them and pay for them in cash.

*UPDATE for week of July 5th* So, I have a spreadsheet with all of our bills and savings needs. I redid it yesterday to see where we stand and... we're a little short if we want to get our savings intact. We'll be fine for this month as we catch up from having to make a 3rd mortgage payment, but that killed us. Although I recommend paying your mortgage off early for the interest savings alone, it is tough on the budget! Mind you, we like to save, so that is why we have found this more challenging on one income.

I highly recommend a savings account like ING direct provides. It is automatic, it is separate from your bank account so it takes 2 days to transfer the money (reducing the "Oh, I'll just take it from savings and replace it later" urge. Check out ING if you would like to make your life more automatic.

Also, if you are interested in staying home, I highly recommend setting aside a percentage of one income every month until you can set aside one entire income. The worst that can happen is that you have a padded savings account! Just pretend like that money doesn't even exist.

Next, create a spreadsheet so you can see where your money goes monthly. I'm currently keeping all of my grocery receipts so I can see how much I spend weekly and on what. I don't know how I go to the store for meat, fruits and veggies yet end up spending $125-$150 weekly on 3 people. That just doesn't seem right. You may find, after creating your spreadsheet, that you are spending misc. funds on eating out, for example. Maybe replacing some of those dinners-out with a crockpot dish or an easy to make recipe could save you hundreds a year- maybe thousands depending on your dining habits! There are so many recipes that you can make ahead and easily reheat. Check out my "recipes" section for ideas.

I'll try to post my spreadsheet this afternoon so you all have a starting point. Until then check out ING Direct, call your bank to see if how much it would be to refinance, and clip those coupons!

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