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Viewing the 'Shopping' Category: Savings Queen's Personal Finance Journey
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Kids, Cancer and Other Unknowns

April 1st, 2013 at 06:48 pm

Wow! Tracking spending has really opened my eyes to how much it costs to live and where the money goes. We are in about the third month of this and it is going very well, except that I have had a couple of realizations of which I was never aware when I was spending like a drunken sailor:

1) When it comes to my kids, I can really overspend. For instance, I just returned from a weekend of moving our oldest son from Nashville to KC. He is 30 years old but I ended up buying him about $600 worth of decor items for his new apartment. His bday is coming up in May and I said I would buy him more decor items then. I have decided, though, that I have spent enough and I am going to limit him to $100 more for his bday. It will be hard to do that because I want him to live in beautiful surroundings, but he will have to buy some of that stuff if he wants it.

2) LIFE HAPPENS (good things). I am realizing the number of bdays, weddings, graduations that happen in our lives and how expensive they really are. Except for giving to family, bday gifts are really kind of silly in that at our ages, 54 and 55, all of our friends really have what they need and want and my adding yet another small bday gift to their lives doesn't really do all that much. I HAD budgeted $100 a month for gifts. Boy was I ever wrong!!! It really should be 3-4 times that!!

3) LIFE HAPPENS (bad things). A couple of weeks ago we learned that one of hubby's old college buddies has stage 4 liver cancer. This is, of course, terrible news but it also means we plan to fly to Florida in May to visit with this friend. That is an unexpected couple of flights, meals out, etc. we did not anticipate. That could be $1000 even if we economize. Ouch!!

UPSIDE! There is an upside to the above. In the past when I was living in the "financial haze" I would have been spending lots on myself AND spending on the unexpected items without really realizing how much I was spending. I would have just thrown it all on the charge card and then sweated bullets the next month to pay it all off.

Now, I have been spending almost nothing on myself because I really realize how much these "extras" are costing. Also, we no longer use a charge card at all so I don't have the monthly fear of looking at and paying that bill. That feels very good.

I am curious if these EXTRAS do subside in a few months. In our defense, we have had lots of extra expenses with our younger son's marriage, our older son's move to KC and our friend's unfortunate diagnosis. Hopefully, this summer we will see a return to more "normal" spending. OR maybe it is an ILLUSION that spending is ever normal!

Even with the above, we HAVE been meeting our monthly budget/savings goals. When we have an unexpected expense I pull the funds from one of the other categories we didn't spend in that month. For example, I have $200 a month in clothing budget and we may pull needed funds from that category. It is called a zero balanced budget and keeps us from spending more than we had budgeted for.

Thank you for listening. This process is helping me a lot.



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!!

Staying Off Ebay!!

November 26th, 2012 at 07:33 pm

I have been away from this blog for quite some time (wish I could consistently keep finances as a priority but I guess some attention is better than none).

For the past several months I have been buying too much on Ebay. We have a large income and own everything outright pretty much, but I have frittered away about $750 in Cabi clothing on Ebay. For those of you who don't know, Cabi is designer clothing sold at home parties.

Well, I purchased A LOT of Cabi clothes at several home parties then discovered I could purchase the clothes for less on Ebay.

This was NOT a good discovery as I have an addictive personality and Ebay can become VERY addictive.

I am on Day One of writing down everything I spend and NOT searching for anything on Ebay.

In the last month cehcking for new Cabi items or checking my auctions on Ebay was beginning to consume LOTS of my spare time and the packages were beginning to come in at a fast and furious pace. Even though in our lifestyle $750 is not terrible, I know where all addictions can lead. Therefore I am stopping this Ebay spending today.

I have to admit that I do feel a little emptier today without Ebay. I have been reading some compulsive spender's blogs for inspiration and I plan to try and cultivate a healthier addiction. One of the things I ordered on Ebay was a set of exercise DVDs. Once that comes I plan to make working out my new addiction (that is the one joy of having an addictive bent is that you can also become addicted to positive things).

Has anyone else out there had trouble with Ebay/Home Shopping Chanel or just general spending compulsions? If so, I would appreciate some tips and/or horror stories of what NOT quitting can do.

By the way, I am very into stating things in the positive. so instead of all the above:

"I spend money wisely and plan all purchases." That's my new mantra. From now on my blog entries will be about the positive steps I am taking rather than the negatives I mentioned above.

WooHoo!!! Paid Off DH's Car!!

March 15th, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Although I haven't posted in a few weeks things are going well for me here in our house. My DH just got a bonus and we used it to pay off his car so we are officially debt free! No mortgage and no car payments. I am so happy about that.

Since January 1 we have truly been living on my income and banking DHs so the savings account is fat and happy. Also, we are living within our spending plan and the checking account is overflowing as well. I am learning that through planning ahead we can get some nice things (when truly needed) and also have some good experiences (like my 50% off Groupons for a local restaurant we have enjoyed).

Retirement Goals. We did get reinvested in the stock market in our 401Ks which was a goal I had. Unfortunately, we did it a few weeks ago at the height of the stock market. I did divide the amount to reinvest over six months though so we will be "dollar cost averaging" in over the next six months. This feels like an ouch to have entered the market at the height as it has come down some, but we still have 15 years till retirement so I guess I will bite my nails and hang on.

Rental House Income. After two false starts in terms of rental houses (we contracted and then backed out of 2 different deals), we really do want to keep looking and purchase rental house #2 soon. We also just completed some light remodeling on rental house #1 and we need to get it rented again or sell it on owner carry. We will take pics and put it up for sale/rent on Craigs List later this week. I know most people seem to be against rentals but DH and I are very handy and we have always made money flipping our own houses so buying and fixing houses is something we are good at. God gave us this "blessing" and I feel like we have to use it to give us security for the future, especially as I feel like the stock market is a gamble. I would love to have rental houses which bring in $5000 income a month and then we will be totally financially free.

12 Step Meetings. I continue to attend my Debtors Anonymous meetings by phone as I am getting ready each morning. This reminds me to write down what I spend each day and stick with our spending plan. One day at a time we are financially "solvent" which makes me SO HAPPY!!! Blessings to all of you!!