Thursday, August 7, 2014

July Riches.

Hooray for five-paycheck months! I feel like a rich person this month, just wondering where it all came from.

QFC:        $1,592
Domino's:  $1,220
Odd Jobs:    $100
Tips:            $871

Total:        $3,783

Of course, in those numbers there's an extra $300 from QFC, and an extra $400 from Domino's. It all goes into savings-- we actually were able to move a whole $2,000 into savings savings for July!

We spent $210 on food, which is pretty good considering that we bought over $55 of nuts (stocking up at Costco), and about twenty boxes of pasta ($0.75/box!).

There have been a lot of fun trips to the lake and the beach this month, as the weather has been clear and sunny and perfect for playing in the water. The only cost of these activities has been out of the gas budget, which is perfect, and the Fund Kiddos love splashing and throwing rocks and wading. Unfortunately, weather for the Independence Day parade was less than spectacular, so we missed that.

I re-worked some electrical outlets in the living room, so that we can re-do the flooring-- spent maybe $45, compared to the $400 that the electrician quoted me ($115 an hour? Ay-ay-ay....).

We did have to pay our homeowner's insurance this month, so that was $553 of spending, but it wasn't unexpected and we'd been saving up for it.

In other news, the battery in the blue Civic died. Dead. We had to spend a majority of the funds in the Auto Maintenance budget; I know we'll be needing a set of tires for the silver Civic, so I've been trying to be extra-frugal in this area, and it was kind of disappointing to be set back. At least we didn't have to overspend our reserves, though; it's just discouraging that they're back to only $25.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Sorry there was no update last week. I've been both busy and lazy.

Last Saturday, I earned an extra $100! One of my regular customers needed someone to do (easy) handy chores in his yard, and wanted to know if I'd be willing to work for him and how much I'd charge per hour. I said that I'd want to make at least what I was making at the grocery store ($15/hour); he said he was thinking more like $20/hour. I said that was okay by me!

So I did 5 hours of pretty easy work (though hot, as it was a sunny day and none of the work was in the shade) replacing some lattice panels, painting the small arbor framing, and a couple other little things.

He also wants me to work for him again this coming weekend. That extra money will definitely help fund the Fund.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Utilities (The Budget, #4)

We live in the city, so we are billed for all our utilities through the City public works department. For our budget, "utilities" means

Electric There is a base charge of $16.77, and then on top of that we pay $0.0674/KwH. This is the largest single factor in our utility bill, and the most variable. We've done a few things to keep it generally low. We have fluorescent lights in the kitchen and dining room, LED lights in the living room; the bathroom is the only other room that regularly has lights on-- I'm planning on swapping out the incandescent bulbs for LED when they finally burn out. The water heater is set at the lowest possible setting (I think it's 115°F). We don't have an A/C unit, so there's no power wasted there; heating is all electric baseboard heaters, which aren't the greatest, but we try to keep the heat off or low as much as possible.

Water The majority of the water cost is in the flat-rate surcharge ($28.22), the variable rate ($0.02/CF) adding maybe $7-13 a month. So, while we do have a 2.5gpm showerhead, I don't worry too much about water usage except to try to keep it under 429 cubic feet/month, because usage above that rate-tier bumps up the cost per unit AND bumps the sewer rate to the next tier...

Sewer A flat rate for sewer usage, based on the volume of water used-- under 429 cubic feet, and it's $61.95/month, if we use more water than that it is priced at the next tier which is way more expensive (I think we did once, and I was not happy with the cost...).

Garbage We have the option to have our garbage can emptied weekly or every other week. Of course, less often = less expensive, and as a bonus, they give us the largest available residential dumpster size (96 gallon). We'll often forget to put it out on time, and it will often still not be full after a month. Every other week service is a flat rate of $18.50/month.

City Taxes Our city provides free fire and emergency medical (ambulance) services, for which we pay a few dollars every month. We also pay some tax for when the sewer system overflows (during heavy rains, etc.); a little tax on garbage; a few dollars for a study they're doing about the sludge in the harbour (or something like that); and a little bit for general city operations. All told, $11.38 every month.

And that's it. There are a few things we could do better, I guess-- we could find a clothesline instead of using the dryer-- but Mrs. Fund already hates doing the laundry, and the dryer makes that chore less of a chore. I've thought about a drying rack, but...neither of us wants to have to pick ALL the clothes up after the two little Fund toddlers pull it over.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We Saved $99 Next Year

Update on our homeowner's insurance policy!

I called Allstate and asked what the difference in the annual premium would be if we changed our deductible from $3,000 to $5,000. Answer: $99!

We have enough in our emergency fund to cover the larger deductible, so we won't be overspent if the trees decide fall on the house. I feel reasonably safe in thinking that the house is not going to break, so I'm willing to make sure to keep the emergency fund higher than normal to save almost $100 per year.

$100 in a year will let us reduce the budget by $8 every month. Or we may re-adjust that $8 into another budget category. I would hate having a budget of $1,792, so I'll probably rearrange something, though I might see if there are some other categories that can be trimmed so that we could add a few cuts together to reduce the total by a nice, round amount. I know auto insurance is coming up and might possibly be lower... we'll see.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

In June...

Sorry the June totals are late. I've been lazy (and busy, but mostly lazy). We totalled everything up and got to move another $1,000 over to savings! Here are the income numbers:

QFC:        $1,367
Domino's:     $815
Tips:            $897

Total:        $3,080

Got full three-day workweeks at the Q, which was both good and not good. Good because, you know, lots of hours. Not so good because we're super short-handed due to two employees quitting and one transferring. So even working only three days a week, I got some overtime; plus pay for Memorial Day, which was nice.

The new phone service with Republic Wireless is working just fine so far. Century Link is officially cancelled now, and I really like the fact that the phone bill will be under $10 every month from here on out.

We went to the (Point Defiance) Zoo which the kids thought was absolutely great! $37.35 spent out of the activity budget, which is totally fine because we almost always find free activities to do, so it's been collecting up for a long while. Had to fill up the gas tank while we were in Tacoma, and we were both pleasantly surprised to see we had been getting 36 mpg.

Lots of fun (free) stuff planned for July, now that it's starting to be consistently sunny and sometimes even hot. Going to the beach, the lake, riding bikes, the local 4th of July parade, and maybe even some picnicking.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Homeowners Insurance (The Budget, #3)

Currently, we budget $55 per month-- $660 a year. We insure our house with Allstate, for no other reason than they gave the best quote when we shopped around. There aren't a whole lot of things that I know of  that can lower this insurance premium, but here's what we did.

Our premium used to be over $900 per year; I wanted to get it as low as possible, so Mrs. Fund agreed that I could increase the deductible IF we also increased the emergency fund to match. So we did. We went from a $1,000 deductible to a $3,000 deductible, and that saved us on the premium. If you live in a high-risk area or own a high-risk home, this may not be the best choice for you, but for our house that isn't going to fall down or blow up or get flooded, it's a good place for us to cut back some monthly cashflow.

Maybe I should check into increasing the deductible again. What do you think? Any tips on how to reduce this expense?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An Out Of Budget Experience

We sometimes spend money that's not in the budget. *Gasp*

In May, we had a trip to the mall, shoe shopping. It's a 90 minute drive from home-- so for us, it's an all-day affair-- we packed some snacks and lunch for the kids, went shopping found some shoes (Yay!), and then went to Costco. We got gas, then went inside and wandered around, snacked on samples, browsed the aisles, and then Mrs. Fund and I ordered hot dogs for lunch/dinner.

The gas came out of the gasoline budget, the shoes came out of the clothing budget, and the hot dogs....didn't come out of any budget. At least, not exactly. We rarely eat out, and for the rare times that we do, we'll often use what we call "The Eating Out Fund" (though we could legitimately use the Activity budget category). Occasionally, I'll make a pie or cookies for a co-worker-- I usually charge $10 for a pie and $6-8 for a baker's dozen of large cookies. This money goes into the Eating Out Fund, for times when we want to splurge on eating out or some specialty/expensive/frivolous food. It is cash only, it's not in the bank, and if it's gone, it's gone; there's no real easy way to overspend it. It also doesn't get any very regular contributions-- if I make pies/cookies then it has money, and if not, then...nothing.

When we bought a new car-- while [i]technically[/i] I think this would/should come out of the auto maintenance budget category... it's such a large purchase, and much more like an investment or a capital expenditure than an expense, that it comes out of non-budget money (i.e., savings).

I ordered a CD player for the new car. Normally, this would be auto maintenance, except that I'm too cheap and if it actually had to come out of the budget, I'd just forgo the stereo. But when I first started delivering pizza, we ended up with a funky quarter-month's worth of tips. I wanted to start accounting for the new job and income situation with a whole month. So for a while, there was just an envelope with about $75 in it, hiding in the desk with no purpose. When I was told that I needed a cell phone as a delivery driver, I figured I'd designate that envelope for stuff that I should have for working at Domino's. So I bought a $10 Tracfone, and finally (6 months later...) found a CD player for the car-- a cost that came out of that envelope rather than any of the real budget. It's kind of like the eating out fund, in that when it's gone, it'll be gone. I'm hoping to stretch it out to pick up a nice car flashlight/spotlight, a good pair of sunglasses, and possibly a fuel economy gauge....

Sometimes, for our birthdays, we are given money-- this also doesn't normally go in the budget. We've been using it as "date night" money that we can spend on just Mr. & Mrs. Fund. When the Fund Kiddos receive money for their birthdays, it goes in their savings accounts.

What do you spend that isn't in the budget? How do you keep it from getting out of control?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Property Tax (The Budget, #2)

We currently set aside $106 per month for property taxes. This can be tricky to estimate right, because it can change every year. This year, our annual taxes were $1,270; last year they were $1,416. The year before that, they were different still.

We generally use last year's tax amount as an estimate for this year. So we'll set our budget in November and then adjust it when we actually get the bill mid-spring (Februaryish, with half due in April and half due in October).

There isn't generally a whole lot that can be done to lower property taxes. We could rent instead of own, but then we'd be paying more for rent than mortgage + taxes. There are some programs for mitigating taxes for people below a certain income threshold (not sure what it is, but it's a REALLY low income level). You can ask the gov't (the county, in our case) to reassess your property. We did this last year, because we thought our house was overvalued (and hence over-taxed); the county sent a couple people out to actually look at the condition of the house, and they told us they may or may not adjust it for us, but it looked promising. The new assessment came and our taxes were almost $150 lower. That saved us a little over $12/month this year.

A couple other notes which may or may not apply:

Pay cash or check. Our county is, for whatever reason, prohibited from absorbing the cost of processing credit/debit charges. If I pay with my debit card, I pay a $2 fee; and if I pay with my credit card, I pay 3%.

Pay on time, of course. Our tax due dates are always the last day of the month (April 30th and October 31st). I replenish the budget on the 1st of the month-- that means that I have the whole amount of money already in my account and budget so I have the whole month to find a convenient day to include "Pay The Taxes" in my errand list.

Pay in person. This will save you the $0.49 of the stamp. Just make sure you combine this errand with other errands that you also need to run-- for us, the County office is only two blocks from our bank, so it's an easy one for us to combine.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The May Tally

Now that the month's ended, all the receipts have been tallied, pay stubs have been summed up, and the results are in.

QFC:        $1,462
Domino's:     $955
Tips:         $1,040

Total:        $3,457

 It was a five-paycheck month at QFC, so that was an extra $300. I've also been getting solid three-day workweeks at QFC, which makes for better checks; and next month, holiday pay for working on Memorial Day will show up, which will be super nice!

Earlier in May, we signed up for Republic Wireless service to replace our current landline. We're giving it a test run before we cancel our Century Link service, but it appears to be working well so far.... which is great, because at the rates we’ve been paying, it ends up being significantly cheaper– even including the cost of the smartphone!

CenturyLink landline: $27.70 ish per month. Yes, rates just went up about $2. :(
Republic: $7.10/month (the $5 plan), since we really only need a home phone anyway; $205 (16GB phone plus tax/shipping) depreciated over a year is $17.08/month. Total actual cost per month: $24.18. Monthly savings of $3.50. This savings will jump all the way up to $20/month once the cost of the phone is fully depreciated out.

Even nicer, though, is the fact that we will immediately reduce our monthly cash flow by $20! That’s money that can go directly into savings.

Had a successful shoe shopping trip-- found some nice walking shoes for Mrs. Fund. Going to the mall and then eating lunch at Costco made it into a fun outing.

Food spending came in under $200 ($191.78 to be exact). I was surprised, because we bought a bunch of extra stuff-- almost $40 of tuna (a giant can at Costco, plus 56 cans when they were on sale for $0.50/can), $30 worth of ice cream (on sale for $1.99/carton!), and a few other miscellaneous extraneous things.

We went way over-budget on diapers-- but we shouldn't need any for a while now. Costco had a $6 off coupon, so we ended up buy 4 cases.

Zoo trip is coming up in June, so we'll get to spend some of the activity fund. Yay!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Not Exactly A How-to...

There are a number of elements that make generating a budget a tricky thing to get right. These are some things I wish I had known before I needed to make a budget. They're not really new, and I've seen or read most of them now, but it would have been super nice to have had them in mind before making our budget


Keep track of every penny you spend.

Seriously. Do this first. If you like Excel*, now is the time to have a spreadsheet. Or have a little notepad in your pocket that you write every purchase in. Or get a receipt for everything. It doesn't matter a whole lot how you do it, but not in your head. You need to know exactly how much you spend and exactly what you spend it on. You need to be able to look back three months from now and tell me what you paid for toilet paper in May.

 *I bet you could make a cool database with Access too, but I've never really gotten into Access. I'm more of an Excel guy.

This is not about changing your spending habits. You can change them later. This is about know what your actual spending is.

Have you done that for a couple months? I think a year is ideal, but three months would probably serve our purposes almost as well. Mrs. Fund and I are pretty OCD about stuff, so we were doing this from the time we got married, before we ever had a budget, so we had about two years of data in our Excel spreadsheet to help us make an accurate budget. So do it for three months. At the end of each month, sit down with your notebook, or your pile of receipts, and sort out your numbers. Make categories based on what you spend money on. For example, I don't have a category in my budget for "Car payment" or "Cell phone"; but you might. The next month, do the same.

Got three months' worth of spending sorted out into categories? Good. Those categories will be line-items in your budget. You will likely also need to add some line-items for expenses that you only have once or twice per year-- taxes, insurance, Christmas, birthdays, etc. Be thorough and find every expenditure that's not monthly.

Now, about categories: don't make them so small that many purchases fit into more than one category. But make them specific enough that you know exactly what (and only what) goes into that category. For example, a lot of people have a "groceries" category, in which they put everything they purchase from the grocery store (from toothpaste to tomatoes); we specifically separate food items from personal care items, both of which we might buy at the grocery store. This allows us to more accurately estimate how much we spend on what, and adjust our budgeted amount if we need to. You may or may not need to, but at least think about whether you do.

Ready to make a budget? Make a list of the names of all your line-items. If some of them are exactly the same every month, then put that amount next to the category. If some of them aren't exactly the same every month, but only vary a little bit ($5 or less either way)-- our phone bill is like this, always about $25.71, but varying every month by about $0.25 due to tax fluctuations and/or fees changing, etc.-- then put down the highest number that it tends to be-- I allow $26 for ours, just to allow that little bit of wiggle room. This will leave you with your most fluctuative (is that even a word? It is now.) categories; for us, they're "household supplies", "food", "personal care", and, to a lesser extent, "gasoline". Don't expect that these categories will even be the same every month; but do know that overall they will average out to be something fairly steady. That overall average number is what you're shooting for. So take your three months of data for those categories and get a monthly average. Then think: is this lower than it would be at other times in the year? (I know our electric bill soars in the winter and plummets in the summer; a three month summer average would be terribly insufficient to cover the winter months.) If it is, make an educated guess of the difference and add that amount on. You can reduce it later if it's too high. If you're using a year's worth of data, you should be able to use that number without adjusting it much, if at all.

There you have a draft of your budget. I'm weird and like my budget to be an even, round number, so we rounded our budget up to the nearest $100-- if you do this, take that extra padding and put it into the categories that you think might need it.

Don't make your categories underfunded. I wish we had figured this out before we created our budget. It is WAY easier to reduce a category that consistently has too much than to try to dig a category out of the hole because it never has enough. You'll feel better about reducing an overfunded category, too. Like you just got some free money.

Okay. Tally up the total of all your budget line-items. This is your "budget". Hang onto this number. You'll need it in a minute.


You need to know what your income is. If you have a normal job, you may not need to keep detailed track-- you should be able to look at your last year's worth of pay stubs. If you don't get all your income by paychecks, then you'll have to look at your own records, or start keeping them. Again, I think a year is ideal, but three months will probably work.

Did you count your net income or your gross income? If you counted net, then good. Your gross income doesn't matter. Let me say that again. You don't get to spend it, so your gross income doesn't matter. You need to budget based on the amount of income that you actually get to use.

Take your income numbers and do the math to find your average monthly income. Got it? This is what I will call your "income".

Look at your "income". Now look at your "budget". Look at your "income" again. Look at your "budget". If your "income" is greater than your "budget", then good. If your "budget" is larger than your "income", you will need to make adjustments to your budget and probably your lifestyle, because your hair is on fire*, as Mr. Money Mustache would say.

*This is assuming you are working something like full-time hours earning at least minimum wage. If you're not, then other advice applies. But your hair is still on fire.

Don't let your hair be on fire.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Mortgage (The Budget, #1)

This is a first in a series-- I'll be going through each line-item in our $1,800 monthly budget, explaining and expounding the single number. That way you can see all the underlying factors that allow it to be what it is. Maybe by explaining each line, I'll even find some ways to streamline it even more than it is!

First up: The Mortgage.

We bought a fixer-upper house for just shy of $70,000. We got a sweet mortgage rate of 3%, and have been paying it off ever since. Yay.

290.06-- minimum payment
800.00-- current monthly payment.

We paid the minimum for about 6 months, then decided we might as well just pay an even $300. Then we decided we wanted to pay it off as soon as we could, and paid a $16,000 chunk of our savings towards the principal. At some point around then, I finally reached journeyman pay level at the grocery store ($15/hr, instead of the $10-11/hr I was earning before), and we decided we were going to put as much toward the principal as was reasonably feasible. After that $16k chunk, we started paying $750/month. We did that for a couple months, and then bumped it up to $800 per month in October of 2011.

Not a numbers person? See, here is a nice picture.

We currently owe $28,395.50 in principal, and we're hoping that we'll have enough saved up by early next year* to pay it off altogether.
*Namely, tax return time.

I will be super happy to see $800 more in free cash flow.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Making A Budget Is Hard.

Everyone says to make a budget. But hardly anybody says how difficult it really is. For instance, if you listen to the Dave Ramsey show, you'll hear him tell at least two or three people a day to make a budget.

"Sit down," he'll say, "write your income at the top of the paper, then subtract your most important expense, then your next most important expense, and so on until you get to zero. If you run out of expenses, then designate that surplus toward your debt snowball (if you have one, and almost all of his listeners do) or your savings."

See? Super easy.


As if you know exactly how much money you're going to have for the month, on the very first day of the month. As if you know exactly how much every little expense is going to be. A month ahead. As if you even know how much your larger expenses will be...Do you know how much you're going to spend on food this month? Yeah, me neither. Do you know how much your electricity bill will be when it shows up mid-month? Yeah, me neither. I know what my mortgage payment will be. There are a couple other small bills that I can know exactly, but most of my major bills are variable. By quite a bit.

THAT is what makes budgeting difficult. If you knew your income exactly, and you knew all your expenses exactly, you wouldn't need a budget. You'd have one-- the easiest budget ever.

Don't get your paycheck on the first of the month? That makes it trickier.

No worries. I'm here to tell you how it can be easy. Just use this one simple trick....It's not easy, so don't be deluded into thinking it is.

It's hard. What makes your budget difficult to create?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

April Moneys

April is gone, and the results are in.

Incomewise, April was not nearly as good as March, but still not bad.

QFC:        $1,112
Domino's:    $872
Tips:           $881

Total:        $2,866

I always try to shoot for at least $1,980* which is my self-set minimum goal. All the extra counts, because it gets either saved or "invested"**.
*Yes, I know I already posted that my budget is only $1,800. I put away 10% of that amount for "purposes". I'll talk about it later, I'm sure.
**I don't have any investments in the normal sense. No stock, no bonds, no gold, etc. My plan for generating enough passive income to retire is to purchase real estate, to which end, I'm saving up for a down payment, which I should be able to do by next year, so I don't really want my money tied up in anything long-term for now. I consider the money/time/labour that I put into remodeling our current home an "investment" in making it into a profitable rental.

Spending was okay, I guess. I feel like we could have done better in some areas, and we did pretty good in others. Overall we were within the budget, so that's good. Some highlights:

Property taxes were due this month, so that's $635 that we don't normally have coming out of the bank. It's budgeted for within our $1,800, so there was no surprise there. It's actually much lower this year due to the fact that we asked the county to reassess our house because we felt it was overvalued. The county agreed and now our taxes are lower by about $12/month; $1,270 per year instead of $1,416.

I've been doing really well being miserly with gas in my pizza delivery vehicle, a 1996 Honda Civic hatchback. I actually registered 46.5 mpg last time I filled up. Only had to get gas four times-- once in the family car (1995 Civic), and three in the other. I try to make a tank of gas stretch at least a whole week of pizza delivery and commuting. Spent $137 on gas altogether. We're hoping to do a couple short trips over the summer, so I'm trying to make sure there's room in the budget for that.

We didn't have to spend anything on diapers, because we super-stocked up last month when Costco had a $5 off coupon. I hope we have enough to last 'til next time that coupon comes out. I think they alternate months.

It's been starting to get nicely warm, so our power bill is starting to drop, which is really nice. That budget account was $66 negative by the end of April, due to all the heating usage during the winter months. I'm looking forward to seeing it build up a positive balance over the summer.

We also spent $166 on stuff for our current remodeling project, which is the dining room. I consider this an investment in eventually being able to rent this house, so it's not part of the budget. In other news, the walls are drywalled and painted and it's starting to look like a real room instead of a work area. Next stage is the flooring.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Budget, The Whole Budget, And Nothing But The Budget

How do I save money? I don't spend it. Except that I have to. So here's how.

Every month this is our budget:

$800-- Mortgage payment
$106-- Property Tax
  $55-- Homeowners Insurance
$275-- Utilities

$175-- Gasoline
  $65-- Auto Insurance
  $20-- Auto Maintenance
    $8-- Auto Licensing/Registration

  $69-- Household Supplies
  $60-- Food
  $40-- Clothes
  $15-- School Supplies
  $20-- Fun Activities

  $75-- Personal Care
  $17-- Life Insurance

$1,800-- Total

Any income over and above this total goes into savings.

The amounts have needed some tweaking over the last couple of years, as we continue to get a better estimate of what our average expenses in each category are. For example,  Gasoline was at $150/month, but we needed to increase that when I started delivering pizza.

Our budget works like the envelope system; the first day of every month, the budgeted amount is added to each category. Money not spent in previous months creates a surplus in its category; money spent over the budget creates a deficit that is taken out of the next month's allowance for that category.

More on how we make "budgeting" work in another post. Or two. Or maybe I'll just make a whole series going through each line-item. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cut Your Expenses! The Ones You Don't Have!

Classic example of why I'm writing this blog.

I picked up "You're Broke Because You Want To Be" by Larry Winget at the library the other day. He has some generally good advice as far as I've read, which is about halfway through the book.

I get to the chapter on "How to Cut Your Expenses and Increase Your Income", and I'm excited. The book's been decent so far, maybe he'll have some good tips! Here's what he says:

  • Give up cable TV. Save $100 a month!
  • Get a cheaper car. For example,  instead of one with a $900/mo payment, one with a $150-200/mo. payment.
  • Move. Somewhere cheaper.
  • Give up your high-speed internet.
  • Get rid of your home phone.
  • Get a new cell phone plan.
  • Cut your insurance expenses.
  • Stop eating out.
  • Stop going out.
  • Give up the salon.
  • Drop your gym membership.
  • Stop smoking.
That's it. These are great tips....if you're already a wealthy middle-class overspender. But excuse me for being responsible. Let me run through those again:
  • Give up cable TV. Are you kidding me? I've never even HAD cable TV in order to give it up!
  • Get a cheaper car. You mean one that's cheaper than my (paid-for) $2,500 Civic? Maybe you have a free one you'll give me?
  • Move. Good advice, except I paid $70k for a fixer-upper, and my mortgage is lower than anywhere I could possibly rent.
  • Give up your high-speed internet. I pay 21.95 per month for non-high-speed internet service. I suppose I could cancel it.
  • Get rid of your home phone. You mean my only regular phone?
  • Get a new cell phone plan. As opposed to the tracfone that I have only because my pizza delivery job requires that I have it. The one that I buy the minimum possible minutes for-- ultimately less than $7/month....?
  • Cut your insurance expenses. Check and check. We did this what seems like ages ago. Our auto insurance agent was super helpful telling us what reductions in coverage would net the most reduction in premiums, and our homeowners' insurance deductible is as large as our emergency fund.
  • Stop eating out. This assumes we eat out in the first place. Which we don't.
  • Stop going out. Because going out for drinks with your co-workers or friends doesn't count as eating out...
  • Give up the salon. Right. I'll call my stylist immediately and inform him/her that we won't be coming in. They'll be super-confused, since neither I nor my wife ever go anyway.
  • Drop your gym membership. Yes, the one I don't have...
  • Stop smoking. Good advice for smokers, I guess.

So much for cutting my expenses. Maybe he'll have better advice on how to increase my income. I hope so.


How to increase my income? Get a second job. Oh. Right.


Reasonably sound advice in the end, though:
  1. Know where you are.
  2. Take responsibility for the situation.
  3. Feel bad about it. Experience remorse.
  4. Make the decision for things to be different.
  5. Know exactly what you want your life to look like.
  6. Create an action plan to get there.
  7. Know what you are willing to give up to get what you want.
  8. Spend less than you earn.
  9. Figure out ways to earn more.
  10. Stop all unnecessary spending.
  11. Pay off debts as quickly as possible and only go into debt for things with long-term value.
  12. Build a cushion. Save!

All of which I'm already doing. As far as I know. I just want to do it better. WAY better.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I Mean Retire.

My goal: Retire in 10 years.

By "retire", I don't mean "do nothing". I don't mean "party all the time". I don't mean that my standard of living will go up. I don't even mean "stop working".

What I do mean is that I will be able to quit my day job, and not worry about how to pay for my family's basic living necessities-- housing, food, warmth, light, etc. What I do mean is that I will have the time to do work (and play) that I enjoy. What I do mean is that I will do work that I want, rather than work that I must. What I do mean is that I won't be tied down to live somewhere I don't want to live, just because "my job is there" or "I still have a mortgage to pay on our house."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

More Money.

I'm richer now. I think.

Late last year, I told my boss at the grocery store that I would only be available to work three days per week-- monday, tuesday, and wednesday. I then got myself hired to work evenings/nights delivering pizzas the rest of the week-- thursday through sunday.

I haven't taken the time to compare exactly my (average) income now to what it was before, but I feel like it's more. This is the income level I'm working with, starting this year.

You'll get to see how much I make each month, where it comes from, where it goes, and what I plan to do with it. For now, let me catch you up on this year:

(Net) Income: $2,241
Spending: $1,579

(Net) Income: $3,276
Spending: $2,077

(Net) Income: $3,953
Spending: $2,079

I don't know why March and February are so high. I promise I'm not doing something else on the side. Tips were especially good-- I don't know what else to attribute it to.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I'm Not Rich, Guys.

There are a lot of people who write about achieving financial independence, and that's great. But I have yet to see one for whom I am the target demographic. You see, I'm technically "poor". All too often, I'll read a great personal finance book or blog or article, and they'll suggest a hypothetical situation just to show how their plan works. Invariably, it goes something like this:

"Let's assume you make $50,000 per year, and every two years or so, you get a raise...."

What? I can't hear you over your nuclear explosion of cash. If I had that income level, of course I could retire early! But I don't. I work at a grocery store. I make $2,500 per month on a good month. If I got full-time hours that month. If I had an extra payday that month. If I'm at journeyman pay rate (which I am *whew*). If I don't have a good month, if I don't have full hours (and I don't always), then I only have something like I did last April-- $1,820.88. Or less. In 2013, I had a total of $26,000 of income to work with. In 2012, I had $24,000. In 2011-- $22,500. There's no employer-matched 401k, a little bit of paid vacation hours (which are cashed out every year, and included in the figures I just quoted), and about $350-700 per year in some form of Health Savings Account in conjunction with the health insurance plan.

So I'm writing this blog. For me. Because I want there to be more helpful information for people like me. I'm good with money. I live on less than what I make. I don't need help making a budget. I don't need welfare to pay the bills. But I want to get ahead, and I want to do more than work 9 hours a day at a job I don't really like.

I'm going to retire in ten years. This blog is about how I'm doing that.
It seems like everyone else has a disclaimer, so here you go. Consider yourself disclaimed. All I'm claiming is that I only claim what I claim I claim, and disclaim other claims I haven't claimed.

Does "claim" sound weird in your head now? It does in mine.