Money To Live

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 🙂

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

September 21, 2010

A debtor to my future self

Filed under: family finances,goals,savings — by moneytolive @ 8:33 pm

I recently wrote about how I like my future self. I save for her to protect her from a rainy day and to give her the freedom to take risks. She’s my friend. My husband, though, has recently been frustrated with his future self.

Over the past year, R got really into saving and saved so much that he couldn’t buy groceries in the days before his next paycheck. He was living paycheck-to-paycheck because of his saving habits. What was he saving so much for? Our wedding, building up a bigger emergency fund, and his current education expenses. While saving is commendable, saving this much made him a debtor to his future self.

Becoming a debtor to your future self is not using money to live, and it can be similar psychologically to paying off actual debt. Saving so much could push a person to abandon saving altogether, much the way adopting too many frugal tactics at once can push someone to stop being frugal at all. There’s a balance between saving for the future and spending today.

Before this, I mainly thought of the differences between saving and paying debts. Having readily available cash skirts the issue of needing to borrow money and take on debt. Most of the time, saving is the better deal — eliminating interest charges and sometimes garnering an additional discount. A different way to look at it, though, is that saving money shifts the cost of a purchase from the future to the past of the object’s purchase/use. While you may get a discount by paying cash (or at least avoid interest charges), you are getting less use out of the purchase by delaying its use into the future.

As we are combining finances, we’re evaluating our savings plan so it won’t leave us feeling broke. As the wedding is over and none of it was financed, that’s one less thing to save for/ pay for. Because R was aggressively building up our emergency fund, we can now reduce our monthly contributions. While we still need to save a little more for his education expenses, we have six months until his final tuition payment is due. When all of these goals are met, we’re going to focus on pre-paying the mortgage. While it seems like there is always more that we could be saving for, at least we’re debtors to ourselves and not to someone else.

July 29, 2008

Reaching a financial goal

Filed under: goals — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
Tags: ,

In 2007 I reached my first major financial goal, and I was not sure what to do.

The typical American way to celebrate is to spend money — either by buying something new or going out for an expensive meal. I thought about going out for a nice meal, but it seemed wrong to celebrate a larger net worth by spending money.

Instead, I made a donation to a charity I care about. Now with each new financial goal, I set a corresponding goal of donating money to celebrate.

How do you celebrate reaching a financial goal — whether it be for packing lunch every day for a week to save money, joining a carpool to save on gas (and reduce emissions), or reaching a multiple of your net worth?

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