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Viewing the 'Investing' Category: Savings Queen's Personal Finance Journey
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Gifts, gifts, gifts, Oh My!!

March 17th, 2013 at 04:55 pm

I am interested in your thoughts on the high price of gift giving and/or how much you budget for gifts.

It's funny, but I never really realized how much certain things cost until we started this spending plan two months ago. For instance, I always thought the gift category in our budget would be rather small.

Boy, was I ever wrong!! Although in my "fantasy" spending plan, not including Christmas, we would spend about $1,200 a year on gifts or $100 a month, for the past two months we have spent a WHOPPING $483.28!!

Walmart cards...$8.52
Victoria's Secret...$54 (girlfriend gift)
Victoria's Secret...$102 (son's fiance's bday gift)
Dick's Sporting Goods $161.96 (son's fiance's bridal shower - outdoor wear, go figure)
Target $117.00 (add'l wedding gift for son - after giving him $5K for wedding gift a couple of months ago!)
Cash...$100 (friend's daughter getting married)

Admittedly, since my youngest son is getting married, we had lots of gift expenses, but we have a MAJOR family bday month coming in April w lots of bdays...mine, hubby's, son's.

We will try to stay at $100 for son's gift and this year we will LIMIT our spousal gifts to $100 each.

In my previous financial haze period, GIFTS as a spending category was never really even on my radar screen. I now have learned two things about them:

1) Gifts cost much more than you think.
2) Buying gifts for others IS an investment in relationships so maybe it IS a worthwhile investment...much more so than buying myself yet another handbag.

ALSO, it seems there is ALWAYS an event which comes up and takes more money than you think. For example, at the end of March I am flying to Nashville to help my older son move to KC which is closer to home. To do that I will have more expenses than in my standard budget...already paid for flight, but hotel room, meals out during the move, new comforter I plan to buy for son's new place. There seems always to be a reason to spend money.

Once good thing, though. I now realize that these other things take so much money that maybe I don't need to SPEND my clothing allowance. Maybe there are better uses I have for that money right now. In fact, I have spent nothing on clothing in two months due to these other expenditures.

Gifts, who knew?

Do you all out there find gifts to be a pricey area? About how much do you spend? And, do you have any ways to keep it more reasonable or do you just accept it?

Changing My Evil Ways

March 14th, 2013 at 04:29 pm

We started following our spending plan around January 15. I am pleased to report that it is working beautifully! I was the real spending problem in our household as we had lots of disposable income and I was pretty good at disposing of it!

Tracking our spending in Mint and writing everything down has been a Godsend and has really transformed how I view and use money in the following ways:

1)We stopped using our charge card and switched to the debit card so I am forced to live within our income (also, no more $10-$12K monthly VISA bills to pay off!).

2)I set up a budget and know exactly what we have to live on each month.

3) I KNOW what it takes us to live each month - something I had no idea of before.

4) I now realize that all spending has tradeoffs. If you purchase clothes for yourself, you may have to cut down on entertainment, groceries, etc. For instance, this month we have overspent on gifts and instead of just doing it I had to pull funds from other areas. I pulled some money from the gas budget, for instance, as we won't need as much as I had budgeted for in that area.

My new financial learning is going great! Also, I watched Suzi Orman the other night and she gave 3 great tips:

1) Before you make a purchase, ask yourself if you NEED or WANT it. If you don't NEED it, don't buy it.

2) Live within your NEEDS, not your income. (if you can afford a 3000 sq ft house but only NEED a 2000 sq ft house, buy the 2000).

3) Learn to get as much JOY out of saving money as spending it. For the first time in my life, I am getting lots of joy from saving, where before going shopping was how I filled the emotional void.

I LOVE this new approach to money. Thanks for listening.

It's Working!

February 18th, 2013 at 07:01 pm

It's crazy how well just writing down our spending and having a spending plan has worked! So far this month we are 18 days in and have spent just $2,686 of our $8K monthly budget! I am so happy! The 8K is what I bring home each month. We are saving hubby's entire salary and the 8K even includes $2,500 from my salary going to savings.

Hubby and I are both in our 50s in our high earning years, about 10 years away from retirement. Unlike some of our friends who used increasing income to increase their lifestyles to exhorbitant levels, we are trying to realize the blessing of our higher income, live reasonably and save and invest toward retirement. We call this our "10 year plan."

This year is especially important as our goal is to save another $45K toward paying our tax bill to convert our real estate IRA into a ROTH IRA. If we do this, in retirement we won't have to pay any taxes on the rental income generated from the ROTH IRA account.

It's funny, but even though I have designated $150 fun money in the monthly spending plan for each of as an allowance and $200 a month each on clothes, knowing we have such a major savings goals makes me want to save everything I can toward it.

I really have plenty of clothes and except for a couple of pairs of summer sandals I can probably just live with what I have.

Since we started living with the spending plan, I have started feeling such a sense of control and peace about our finances. This is such a contrast to even a few months ago when I shopped on Ebay with a vengence and tried to ignore the monthly VISA bills as well as the many packages which came in each day. I get paid this Friday and will pay off the final $1,100 VISA BILL. HURRAY!!!!!!!

For me, spending can be quite addictive. I always need to remember to write down all my "numbers", not use credit and to take it one day at a time. I have had good, solvent periods before which ended. This time I truly want to change my lifestyle once and for all.

Thank you for your help in this effort God. I couldn't do it without you! Thank you also to all of you out there in internet land. Being accountable to you people I don't even know is helpful.

Wedding Planning Book

February 14th, 2013 at 05:26 pm

I am keeping this journal often so I can see my spending patterns. I continue to write all expenditures down and am saving MUCH money (like hundreds or thousands each month) by not frittering it away mindlessly.

I did purchase a book on Amazon this morning, though, for my son and his fiance who are getting married. It was $10.02 including tax and I had enough in the gift budget for it. I know she will be delighted when she receives it as it is supposedly a great book on planning a frugal but elegant wedding.

Last night hubby and I went out to Jason's Deli and spent $21.70 for sandwiches. We had not gone out in two weeks so this was a nice splurge for us.

We have also decided that after about 4 months of eating vegan we will be adding back in some meat and/or dairy. Hubby is concerned his gums are receeding and believes it could be the vegan diet. So last night he had a chicken salad sandwich. I am adding back in cheese and dairy products so I will return to being a vegetarian as I have have been for the past 4 years.

The vegan diet was getting so BORING as we ate lots of beans and rice. We were both tired of it!!

It is interesting that as I have stopped spending LOTS of money on myself (clothing, jewelry, etc), I find that I want to spend money on others. While this is a good thing and less selfish than spending on myself, I need to watch to make sure I don't start overspending on gifts.

I tend to have addictive type issues and this is something I need to be aware of.

To celebrate Valentines Day, we are taking a two-hour road trip this evening to see a concert with a friend. The trip will entail eating a few meals out and also extra gas. I will take along snacks so we don't blow money on snacks. I could take the money out of our travel budget, but I think I will take it out of our normal gas and restaurant budgets.

I feel a great sense of peace lately not using the VISA. I can hardly wait to pay off the last bill ($1,100) next month! Then I will be totally free of the VISA demon. To me, a charge card is much like the devil. It is so enticing at first promising you wondrous, beautiful things you don't feel you are paying for but it ends up slowly almost imperceptively eating away at the good things in your life until all you have left is fear, anxiety and credit card bills. Good riddance VISA Devil!!

Sister's Birthday Today

February 13th, 2013 at 04:19 pm

I own a business with my sister and today is her Birthday. Here at work whenever we have a birthday we hold an office birthday lunch and buy the celebrant a birthday card and $25 giftcard to the restaurant of their choice. Usually, my sister and I don't buy each other anything additional, just the usual office birthday stuff.

Well, this morning I was reading one of my budget books and it asked me to list various sets of goals for various time periods. One of my goals was to develop a better relationship with my sister as working together over the years we have had some problems. The book urged the reader to set longer term goals and then short term goals which lead to the accomplishment of the longer term goals. With regard to my sister/relationship goal, I realized that what I could do this week was buy her a small additional gift. Therefore at lunch today I am buying her a tube of my favorite mascara. It will only cost about $8 but this is a way to show her I value her and our relationship. Even though this does entail spending money, it is in my spending plan and it is a small investment in our relationship.

Here is what the book asked the reader to list:

100 Things I Really Want to Do
100 Things I really Want to Have
20 year goals
10 year goals
5 year goals
1 year goals
1 month goals
1 week goals
1 day goals

Starting to make the lists reminds you to 1) think about the things you want to do and accomplish in your life and 2) reminds you that one day at a time we are creating our future outcomes. Not to plan for this is to leave the outcome to chance. And really waste your life.

Quick Musings

February 12th, 2013 at 10:33 pm

I have decided to try to just write a little something each day to stay on track. Hubby and I continue to track our spending, however, I am a bit worried I am going too much to the frugal side. I need to make sure to stay balanced so that this does not turn out to be another brief savings phase (I have been trying to control my spending on and off for the past two years).

Today I received a $75 refund from my hubby's doctor as we overpaid. Deposited that in the checking account along with hubby's paycheck. He actually got a paper check in the mail this time as we were switching his ACH deposit from Emigrant Direct to Ally Bank so we got a paper check this time. Emigrant's great online rate had decreased to .05% where Ally's is .09%. Every little bit helps.

For the last few days been working based on a new philosophy. YOU SUCCEED WHEN YOU TAKE THE ACTION, NOT IF THE RESULTS TURN OUT AS YOU HOPE.

For instance, at work I sometimes wouldn't call a prospect because I worried they wouldn't want what I was selling. Now, I don't worry about the outcome. In just picking up the phone and calling I have already succeeded. This has resulted in my being much more productive at work.

What to do with 401K

January 31st, 2013 at 03:25 pm

After I posted yesterday Snafu asked what I considered a "safe" investment for my 401K. About 300K of my 400K 401K (lots of Ks, huh?) is sitting in cash! I pulled everything back to cash about 4 months ago as I worried that the fiscal cliff thing would cause everything to drop. I know that was a BAD move as the stock market has done nothing but increase since then.

Now I am scared to get back in as it seems to me the stock market may be about to go down again. That is the problem. Never pull out because it's tough to know when and how to get back in.

Suzi Orman, who I watch regularly, urges risk averse people like me to go into shorter term municipal bonds. She says interest rates are about to rise so stay in short term bonds only. I know to get the growth though we really need to be partially invested in the stock market, but I only have 10 years until retirement. Also, I lost about 75% in the 90s in the high tech bubble so I am scared.

I actually got to talk with Suzi on her show about two years ago where she urged me to put everything in muni bonds due to my fear. I now wish I had done that. I only put 100K into the 5% bonds. Even with the growth of the market I would feel a lot safer with a fairly guaranteed 5%.

I have also been seeing quite a few documentaries about mutual funds that are really ponzi schemes and the fact that the Securities and Exchange Commission really doesn't do much. It is all frightening. I'm sorry, but if they want us to invest for our retirement, the government should at least have enough oversight to keep us safe from crooks!

Does anyone have any ideas on safer 401K investments? I have lots of leeway in my 401K and can invest in just about anything.