Planning for Splurges

One of the hardest parts about budgeting for the month is sometimes feeling as though that we can’t splurge on ANYTHING anymore.  With gifts to buy, cars to repair, and unplanned errands to run it can be hard to save anything after our normal expenses.  Where does the fun money come from?  How did we have it before?

HappyWifey.net Budget Series: Planning for SplurgesI don’t think we make less money now.  I think we are relying on credit cards less, while putting MORE money into debts instead of only paying minimum balances. We need to be realistic and understand that there will be splurges. Life is too short to NOT go out to dinner, not do __ with friends and family, etc.

So how do we plan for these splurges?  For right now, we are still feeling our way through this. My top two ways are as follows… we do a mixture of both.

1. Estimate your splurges for the month.

Do you know that you’ll want to go out to dinner 3 times a month? Once a week? Based on past history, write in your planned splurges as an expense on your budget IF YOU CAN.  The better the estimation, the more realistic your monthly budget will be.  If you plan for the expense and know you can spend it without going too far off track, you’ll feel much better!

2. Put no splurges in the budget, and restrict yourself to any leftover money.

Because I am still working on budgeting our splurges, we’ve been denting into our leftover money for splurges if necessary.  Step one above is definitely a better direction!  Still, if I know we’ll have $300 left after our tithing during the month, I feel less bad about spending $50 if we go out to dinner with friends.  I feel less stress because I know I am covered, and I feel happy because our budgeting isn’t restricting us too much.

You can also plan for long time splurges.  Just like our non-splurge emergency fund, we’re trying to set money aside into a separate vacation budget so that we can still treat ourselves now and then while we’re paying down debts.

Thanks for reading my budget series!  I am enjoying sharing our budgeting experiences with you!  Read about how we decided to start paying cash for groceries and fuel.

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Deciding to Live with Cash

I’d like to let you know something – budgeting is not as easy as I thought it was going to be!  I looked at my numbers, scribbled down my expenses and income, and hoped that things would change.  I used mint.com and studied my spending.  After trying a cash budget for a few weeks and never succeeding… I decided that something had to change.

HappyWifey.net Budget Series: Deciding to Live with CashMonths and months ago, I found these handy DIY budget envelopes and decided that paying for things with cash may help us save some money.  Well.. after doing it for a week here, and a week there… we always faltered!  We’d find ourselves at the grocery store again, with no money envelope in hand, and out would come the debit card.

March 2013 has been the very first month where I have budgeted almost every last penny.  This first week of March, has been a full week where we have gone to our favorite grocery stores with $120 in hand.. and spent exactly $118 of that month and not a penny more.

Why did we decide to do this?  Because something has to give.  There has to be a better way to manage money than adding and subtracting again and again and hoping that all will balance out.  While we’re still learning to preplan and be proactive with our cash, there of course has been a little bit of spending that has not been pre-planned.  We’ve edited the budget to include these expenses as they come to be sure we have something to save at the end of the month.

The point of our cash exercise is to limit our overall spending to cash only if we can… but on a much larger scale, it is to teach us the value of our money.  Some may think dinner for 2 for $30 is a cheap date… but to us, it now equals X amount of ground beef or other food that could have fed us for a large amount of meals.  While we won’t cut out our splurges all together… we’re deciding to live on a mostly cash budget because we work HARD for our money, and want to keep as much as it as possible.  We aim for less debt every day. We need to work on how we budget for entertainment, fun, and dinners out.

We’re spending how we want to. After the necessities, everyone has their own priorities.  We’re just learning to keep better track of what we do most… with cash :)

Please join me in the coming weeks in March, when I’ll let you know how we’re doing with our March Budget!  Looking for a new way to budget and love writing things down?  Try my Monthly Budget Worksheet, available on Etsy…

Monthly Budget Worksheet @ HappyWifey.net

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New to Monthly Budgeting

February will be the first month that Michael and I write out our budget before the month begins and we will attempt to stick to Dave Ramsey’s Guide to Budgeting.  We’ve used techniques like his before but somehow always take money out of other categories when we go over.  It is something we really want to work on – especially because there are so many things we want to funnel our money to.

I started creating a worksheet we could use and then thought it would be a great idea to offer it on Etsy just in case anyone isn’t handy at coming up with their own sheet or doesn’t like some of the others that are online.  Don’t get me wrong – this one I am about to share with you is what makes sense to ME. It may not work or be good for you.  And who knows?  Maybe after I use it a few months I’ll want to make a few changes based on use and how it goes.  We shall see :)

If you’re interested in the printable, check out the sample below and head over to my Etsy Digital Designs shop to purchase.  Fingers crossed we can stick to writing out our budget before February rolls around!

Monthly Budget Worksheet @ HappyWifey.net Continue reading

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How to Split a Transaction on mint.com

I recommend using mint.com to track where your money goes… especially if you use online banking and don’t really balance a checkbook anymore.  Don’t get me wrong – knowing how to balance a checkbook is an important part of being smart with your finances.  We just find that it works better to continuously stalk our online account everyday and use mint.com to fill in the gaps to see where all of our hard-earned money goes.

There was a problem though.  Mint lets you view ALL of your transactions and then tells you what they are for (“oh, Hess is “Gas and Fuel”?  sweet.) and allows you to switch them. But not everything is always so clear cut! Sometimes I would take cash back from the grocery store for gas. Sometimes I would get cash at an ATM but not want to designate it ALL to shopping or fuel or whatever.

I don’t know if I’m late to the party or what, but I just noticed that mint.com lets you split your transactions!  Here’s how :)

  • Login to your account @ mint.com
  • Select ‘Transactions’
  • In your ledger you’ll see all the transactions.  Click the one you want to split.
  • Select “EDIT DETAILS”
  • Select the “SPLIT” button
  • Type in how much you’d like to split, and what it should be categorized now.  Here is an example:

How to Split Transactions on mint.com - HappyWifey.net

  • If you have $0 left at the bottom of this little screen, that means you have correctly split your transaction!  Select I’m done to see your two new separate transactions in the ledger.

This little tip has really helped me get a better picture of where I’m at.  Now I don’t need to think I spend a TON of money on groceries when really I am just getting cash back to purchase gas at the cheaper cash rate.

Disclaimer: I am not associated with mint.com but just really love their service/product.  If they should change their system and this is out of date, just let me know and I will change it.  

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A LendingClub.com Review

After plugging all of our information in mint.com, one piece of advice the site gave us was to seek a personal loan to consolidate and pay off our credit card debt, which regretfully is still hovering around $12,000. We aren’t proud of it – but we ARE proud that we are being responsible and are paying it down. We’ve been both attacking the debt since about 2009.

The personal loan site Mint vouched for was LendingClub.com, so we decided to review it and give it a shot.  Lending Club is a company that allows users to become investors and investor in personal loans.  They seem to be based on the west coast and provided a lot of support.  It basically, to me, is like PayPal.  Lending Club is the middle man for people to loan you money, much like PayPal is a middle man of handling your money.

I read a few positive reviews and decided to give it a shot.  My credit score in the past had not exactly been high, so I was a bit surprised to see our acceptance a few days after applying.  Once you are given a chance to get the loan (of up to $35,000 – we only did $12,000) you have to verify your email address, bank information, and potentially your employment. During that verification time, investors sign up and throw X amount of money at your account.

Once the loan is “posted”, you have 14 days to cancel the whole thing.  If you don’t get 100% of your loan funded (I was told by support, however, that if all your verifications clear you have a 90%-95% of someone investing the balance of your loan at that time) you have the option of backing out.

Let’s talk rates.  My husband and I are paying off 4 credit cards, all with varying amounts, but the interest rates were 13.24%, 19.9%, 22.24%, and 28.75%. We were literally drowning in interest. Paying more than $400 a month in credit card payments receiving almost HALF of that in interest charges every month.  Going nowhere fast.

Now we are the happy payers of our monthly Lending Club personal loan, at a rate of about $368 a month for 3 years.  The rate is only between 6-7% and we know exactly what we will pay in the long run. And there is no fee for prepayment. The monthly payment is automatically taken out of your checking account so no worries there!

All in all, I think it is a wonderful service thus far.  Going to the bank was going to be a daunting task for me as I was unsure about my credit.  But my credit was fine, and Lending Club support was understanding, and now we’re progressing to a better financial situation. What a great week :)

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Creating New Budgets on mint.com

About two months ago, my husband and I decided to go back to mint.com.  Mint.com, in my words, in an account aggregator.  I tell it all about my personal accounts online (I pay everything online, anyway), and it tells me where the money is going.  We first left it because I thought it was kind of shady.  All that information sitting there in one spot for anyone to get at.

But when it came down to it, I missed the service, and it has bank level security, and I watch my accounts for irregular charges anyway… so here I am again.

We took some time to create some budgets last night.  You can create a budget for any spend category – groceries, entertainment, anything!  We’ve used the “cash only” method to pay for things in the past but have started using our debit card again because it is easier to track where the money goes with mint.com.

Yup, that’s right.  It is July 9th and we are already more than halfway through the grocery and restaurant budgets.  Seeing this chart when I login to the system everyday will definitely make me more accountable.  Maybe we can tough it out and still meet the budgets this month!  I see this really helping our spend situation.

If you’re a mint.com user, simply click on their ‘Budgets’ tab and begin adding a new budget for each area you spend on every month.  We’ve got a whole litany of them!  Most of my bills are paid later in the month, so that’s why my Student Loan and internet bills all say $0 above.

>> What’s even better? When you exceed a budget, mint.com makes sure you know about it and makes the bar in the graph RED!  Bad budget exceeding people!

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