Friday, July 31, 2015

One Day More . . .

I'm ready for August 1st.  I just got the total number on my income, and I made one other major cut three days go - to my church pledge.  That was hard to do, but I knew that I had to do it.  I've ordered the last of the things I feel I'm going to need - and for which I can save in the months before needing them again.

Now, with nearly all financial information in hand, it looks like I should have a surplus of around $50/month, give or take.  This is VERY good news, since I don't currently have a line item for medical expenses (and I've already used my entire FSA for this year), nor for clothing (I have a closet full in a variety of sizes, which, for once, doesn't seem like a bad thing), nor for emergencies and/or unforeseen expenses.  I'll be holding on to any monthly overages in the slush fund.  Any "found" money will also go in the slush fund.

After all the bills come in on the accounts where I made changes, I'll have a clearer picture of how everything is going to look going forward.

And after another conversation with my financial advisor, I know how much cash I have immediate access too in case of a true emergency.  In this respect, I'm very, very lucky.  Far luckier than most, but it's truly for emergencies, which I generally think of as involving blood, broken bones, and/or death of some sort.

What's found money, you ask?  In my family, that's what we call it when you get some money you weren't expecting.  For example.  Last week, a lady got off the train as I was getting off the train.  She stopped me and asked if there were cabs at this particular station - she had gotten on the wrong train and was trying to get back to a town two north of me where she had parked her car.  She was travelling at a different time of day than was normal for her, and during rush hour the trains are zoned - she got on the wrong zone train.  There are no cabs at my stop unless you call for one, so I drove her back to her car.  I had to go that way anyway to go grocery shopping, so it was no trouble, and she didn't look like an ax murderer.  She insisted on giving me a sawbuck.  I put it in the slush fund.  Found money is always a happy surprise.  One day last week I actually found a dollar on the ground!  Literally found money  :-D

Linda the Chicken Lady asked me about paying cash for things.  She says she's terrible at having large amounts of cash and uses her cards for as much as she can.  I am falling back on the tried and true "Envelope Method" of budgeting for a number of reasons.  There are certain expenses every month that I feel it's better to deal with in a true "cash and carry" manner:  food, hair/toiletries, car maintenance, dry cleaning, and the slush fund are the main ones.

Here's why:  if I give myself $200 a month for groceries, that's all I can spend.  If I get to the checkout and it's $201.99, something has to go back.  It's too easy for me to use my debit card (which is just like cash and comes directly out of my checking account) and not think about it.  Even though my mom was not great with money, one of the things she ingrained in me from a young age was to never charge groceries.  I never have. I'll use the debit card for them because it's like writing a check, and I'll use it as a credit card for gasoline, but even then it still pulls directly from my checking so there's never any need to "pay it off at the end of the month."  There are a couple of items still rolling to the credit card every month- I'm going to see how that goes for the next month or two.  If I don't like it, I'll shift them over to the debit instead.

I believe I will start using annother old tool again, as well:  a check register.  It was a most helpful tool from back in the day when that's how everything worked.  If I use that, I can make a line entry for half or a quarter of an expense - for example, I have to pay ORKIN every other month - I can spread the total out over four paychecks if necessary, saving a little from each so that the money is there when I need it to electronically pay the bill when it comes due.  That was always one of my favorite tricks when I budgeted like this back in the day.

Here we go . . .


Linda said...

Since you are trying to reset your habits, then going with a method that makes you stick within it makes sense. I'm not sure how I'd do something like that if I had to impose such discipline on myself.

I love getting the cash back rewards from my credit cards, which is another reason why I use them so much. Both of my cards are cash rewards cards that give me at least 1% back on purchases. Discovercard even runs special 5% cashback bonuses on a regular basis in different categories. Currently the 5% cashback is on purchases at hardware stores, department stores, and I don't usually plan my purchases based on these extended rewards times, but it sure is nice to get extra money back from that trip to the hardware store that I had to make to buy filters for the HVAC system! I always apply the accumulated cashback bonuses directly to my balance, so it's sort of like unexpected income for me.

For tracking expenses, I love Mint. If you're a smart phone user, the app even is handy for tracking cash expenditures since you can add them on the fly instead of writing them down in a notebook or check register. I regularly check transactions on Mint and then use it to look at trends and build budget categories. I'm not so good at using it for cash purchases, though, which is why I try to use the cards (which are linked to Mint and updated daily) as much as possible. For example, I spent some cash at the farmers market this week but I forgot to record it. This is another reason I always pad the numbers that I get out of Mint for groceries and dining. :-/

A :-) said...

I think I'm more old-school than you are :-D It seems just as simple to me to use a check register, but then I would miss out on the analysis that spreadsheet data or database programs could give me. I'll see how it goes for a few months and then decide if I need something electronic to help me.

Michelle said...

I use my check register without fail.

Remember Malachi 3:10, my dear friend!