Money To Live

September 14, 2013

New Purchases

Filed under: budgeting,cost analysis,scrimp/splurge,spending — by moneyconsciously @ 10:33 am

Recently I made a purchase of items over which I hesitated. They cost more than I planned to spend, but were very lovely. Here’s why I chose not to scrimp, but to splurge.

The items were a good fit. They filled the niche I planned to use them for, in more than one way. They would be long-lasting.

The items were also well designed and made of good materials. Some or all of the work (design, production) was done locally rather than outsourced to sweat shops. And the items were sold by a wonderful local business.

It’s the second set of points that probably contributed to the higher cost of the items. However, those points were congruent with values I support. So, putting my money where my mouth is, I made the purchase.

No regrets.

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August 17, 2013

Create money to live

Hmmmmmm… I sat down to write this blog post at my usual schedule. Ideas popped in, but none flowed into writing. I willingly spent a few hours procrastinating. I reminded myself, as any writer knows, that you just have to do it.

Conclusion?

Today’s blog message is simply this: to create money to live, you just have to create money to live. Do you know how to earn more money? Do you know how to save more money? Do you know how you can improve the quality of (the value you experience from) your money? Go create money to live!

March 15, 2013

Patience

Filed under: budgeting,goals,hobbies,scrimp/splurge,spending — by moneyconsciously @ 12:09 pm

We’ve all heard the advice not to impulse buy. But here’s an example of how seizing an unplanned opportunity — combined with patience and knowing where I stood financially — worked out nicely.

My wishlist included an item that was a non-trivial expense. I knew that I would eventually purchase this item for a hobby, however a) it was not a priority, and b) it didn’t fit my current spending pattern.

On the weekend I passed by a sale. I decided to stay open-minded. The sales assistant recommended me a product and size, and the first one I tried was excellent: much better than I expected, and I felt it was unlikely that I could find a better fit even if I were to shop around.

When I walked into the store, I already knew that I had planned to not buy this item immediately. The pressure to impulse buy was removed.

I also knew that, although it wasn’t within my current budget, I could make it happen if I really wanted it. If I bought the item now, I would benefit from a 40% sales discount and no future rental costs. I would also save time shopping around.

So, after patiently wishlisting this item for a year, I impulse bought it…and saved time and money in the long-term 🙂

January 23, 2013

Relaxing: spending and saving

Filed under: budgeting,savings,simplify — by moneyconsciously @ 11:35 am

[You might also be interested in Money To Live’s post on the Costs associated with working full time.]

Recently a friend asked me: how do you manage to travel more and work less?

Over a cup of tea, we agreed that work could be a stressor. When we responded to work demands by feeling stressed, we both tended to spend more money either to relax or save time. My friend relaxed by going out; she spent her money on drinks, clubbing and taxis. I spent more money on eating out and going to cafes. With more money coming in, we worried less about spending the extra cash…even though the little things added up over time.

When I am relaxed or not working, my lifestyle is different. I entertain myself (and others) in different ways: I spend more time at home, I cook more. I spend less, I save more. Rather than working more to spend more in ways that I don’t actually prefer, currently I am choosing to relax, spend money more consciously and formally work less.

March 17, 2012

Constantly checking accounts

Filed under: budgeting,family finances — by moneytolive @ 2:49 am

I think it’s time to revise how I handle our finances. Back when it was just me and R, I had a routine where once a week I checked our main accounts and reviewed our cash flow projects for the next few months. This was also a time to transfer money between accounts. Once a month I did a more thorough review and took a snapshot of all of our accounts (cash, credit cards, investment, etc.).

Now, though, I am checking our main accounts about five times a week. Since my income is irregular and we have new, large, recurring expenses (primarily, childcare), our accounts are a little more complicated. Throw in a major car repair, plane tickets to England, and a delayed tax refund …

Our money for childcare is kept in a separate bank account. If my projections are correct, this account will finally have a surplus by September. Then I won’t need to keep tabs on its balance as closely.

Until then (and until we get our tax refund), I am grateful to have built up an emergency fund. We can pay all of our bills on time while we wait for some cash flow bumps to smooth out.

October 25, 2011

Four ways I track our finances

Filed under: budgeting,goals,net worth,savings — by moneytolive @ 1:36 am

Cash flow: MS Money

MS Money essentially provides an electronic checkbook register. Though Microsoft has stopped releasing new editions of money, the Sunset Edition still works fine. I plan to keep using it until either my banks stop exporting files in a compatible format or the Windows operating system gets too fancy to open the program.

I use the register to plan out our finances for the next several months. Right now, our major transactions are entered through the end of 2011: paychecks, mortgage payment, typical bills and expenses. A few times a year, I plan out our income/expenses for 3-6 months. On a weekly basis, I download all bank transactions, reconcile the accounts, and look ahead at the next few weeks in detail.

Net worth/ goal tracking: Excel

Once a month, I review all of our accounts and update a spreadsheet to track our net worth and goals. The results are aggregated and compared against the past. I print out two summary pages to show R. Sometimes he looks at them; sometimes he asks for a thumbs up/down summary.

Mortgage payments: Excel

While the mortgage is part of my monthly review of our finances, I track it in a separate Excel spreadsheet. This way, I can play with making extra payments to see how the payoff date changes.

Budgeting: Mint.com

For a long time, I did not tracking our spending by category. In part, this was due to laziness, and in part, I didn’t want to know. I don’t need it verified that I spend $150-$200 per month at coffee shops. Seattle is the home of Starbucks, you know.

Since we’ve done a lot around the house, I flag all home-related purchases in MS Money. We saved up and have money set aside in a savings account for these expenses. That’s ok for tracking one category but tedious for tracking a lot of categories. While Money does have some built-in categorization features, they’re not smart enough to easily categorize my transactions.

I decided to try Mint.com for reviewing spending by category. So far, it’s great and meets my specifications:

  • Aggregate credit card and bank info
  • Intelligent categorization
  • Easy to use, useful reports
  • Not a time suck

October 20, 2011

Am I keeping a secret from my husband?

Filed under: budgeting,family finances — by moneytolive @ 1:24 am

Disclaimer: Financial secrets are generally very bad. Especially if they involved credit cards, separate bank accounts, or fraud.

I keep track of nearly all aspects of our finances – goal tracking, retirement planning, bill paying, day-to-day budgeting. I work out our cash flow several months in advance, so I always know what’s coming.

Financially, things aren’t looking good for the next few months. My income is way down (baby due in late October), and our expenses are way up (baby due in late October). We have enough money to pay for everything, but it’s eating through our day-to-day cash buffer.*

Should I tell R about it? So far, I haven’t.

It’s temporary. Though my income is down, I am doing some freelance work that will replenish our cash buffer (and a little more), but I don’t know when I’ll receive the money.

There’s still money in the bank. We’re not going to overdraw the checking account; we’re not going to have any credit card debt.

I don’t want to worry his pretty little head. I’ve found that if I make an off-hand comment about running out of money, R interprets the situation as much worse than it really is. When I made a comment about spending all of our money on renovations, I meant that we spent all that we had budgeted, while he thought I meant that we spent *all* of our money. I was glad when we resolved that miscommunication!

I’m planning a more important conversation in a few months. Kids are expensive, and they change the family budget. While I have read all about budgets and kids, there’s still a lot of uncertainty with how a kid will affect our budget. My workload is flexible, and I have not decided how much to work, which affects how much we pay in childcare. Within the next few months, we will sit down for a conversation about how the baby is affecting our budget and goals. I care more about that conversation than our current cash flow. I don’t need his input for managing our current cash flow; I need his input as we juggle our goals and budget.

So, should I tell him about our bank account balance?

If R reads this, I guess he’ll find out.

 

*This cash buffer is separate from our emergency fund.

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