August 2014 – Expense Tracking Results

Last month, I vowed to start tracking my expenses after seeing my credit card debt yet again grow more than I was throwing at it.

Midway through my own personal challenge, I shared with y’all just how hard it was to track expenses at all.

To top it all off, I recently just got engaged, which means I need to be that much more mindful of my spending! Not only do I need to save up for a wedding, but most importantly, I need to save up for our future life together!

After weeks of keeping literally all of my receipts and diligently keeping record of every time I swiped, the results are in.

Let me tell you right now – the results ain’t pretty, y’all.

All in all – I spent about $4,613.84 last month. Here’s the breakdown of my August 2014 expense tracking:

August 2014 spendingSome observations

The majority of my expenses, $1,576.41 to be exact, is being thrown at my credit card debt. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I want that debt gone ASAP! However, since I’m still spending money on my credit cards, paying this much toward the balances feels like trying to fill up a pool that has several leaks/holes in it – it’s counter productive!

So how do I make paying off my debt more productive? I need to fill in these leaks/holes. I need to stop using my credit cards! 

Commuting costs are the next highest expense at $564.19. This amount includes gas, tolls, parking, and BART fare. Not only does my commute take up a huge chunk of my day, it takes up a huge part of my budget. Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do about this expense. For now…

I pay about $500 per month towards the house – this includes mortgage, HOA, electricity, cable, etc. Not bad considering I’m splitting all these costs with my brother, mom, and auntie. Don’t think I’m changing anything in this category quite yet.

Retirement savings sits at $463.64 per month. This is the amount I need to max out my Roth IRA for the year.

My monthly car loan payment is $372.81 and my monthly car insurance payment is $154.67Yikes. This is what happens when you finance a brand new car, folks. As far as the car loan payment, there’s not much I can do. But I do plan on re-evaluating my car insurance – whether it means paying for the year in advance to save some money, or even jumping to a new provider, I plan on lowering this monthly amount by the end of the year!

I spent $203.23 on Merchandise and $162.95 on Restaurants in August. This is above the regular $120 in cash I withdraw each month for my regular “play” money. I definitely plan on cutting back on these categories. These were all unplanned and unnecessary purchases. If I can keep these kinds of purchases down to the planned cash of $120/month, I can really save some serious money this way.

Currently, I’m throwing $200 at my student loans and I plan on keeping it that way for a while. I’ve rounded my minimum payment to the next $100 increment, so I’m overpaying right now, but it’s still a manageable level for me. No change needed.

In August, I put $100 toward my travel savings, mainly toward my “fun money” for #FinCon14! This category will definitely increase and shift in the next few weeks, especially because I have a wedding to plan and pay for!

Seeing the naked truth behind my spending was incredibly eye-opening. Personally, I don’t think I can keep tracking expenses in this way in the long run, but I know I’m going to be a lot more aware of where I spend my money.

Action items:

-Stop using credit cards!!!

-Look into lowering car insurance payments

-Keep Merchandise and Restaurant spending limited to allotted “Play Money” of $120 per month.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be updating y’all on how I plan to change my budget/expenses to accommodate for The H2B (new nickname, thanks Daniel!) and my engagement/wedding festivities.

Maintaining Friendships on a Budget

Something changes when you stop going to school.

All of a sudden, you barely have time to see your friends. Your schedules never seem to line up. When you’re free one night, your friend is studying or working the night shift. When you’re busy with family one weekend, your friends are asking if you’re free to hang out. It almost never seems to work out!

But when it does work for everyone’s schedule, you tend to go out to eat at a restaurant that isn’t exactly at your price point. You don’t want to be considered the cheap one, so you go along with it and order more food/drinks than you can handle. You justify it by saying you haven’t seen so-and-so for a long time and you throw your budget out for the night.

The next thing you know, you’re looking at your empty wallet and your credit card statements. I spent HOW MUCH at the bar the other night? Those mediocre appetizers/entrees cost me $50 total for the night? The numbers don’t lie, honey.

I know how exciting it is to finally catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a long time. But that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to splurge every time it happens! Maintaining friendships is definitely an important part of young adulthood, if not life. But don’t let “maintaining friendships” become an expensive category in your budget. Here’s are 3 ways I’m maintaining friendships on a budget.

Board Game Nights

I’ve mentioned before that my friends are super into board game nights right now.Having a board game night is an easy and cheap way to gather a group of people for a fun night of catching up and creating new memories. For food, it’s either a) BYOF – bring your own food, b) bring food to share, or c) we all pitch in for pizza. Either way, it never gets too expensive for any of us. Just bring any games you have at home. Heck, even a deck of cards can make for a fun night. Here are some of our favorite board games right now: Settlers of Catan, King of Tokyo, Resistance Avalon, and Coup.

Walks/Runs

I’m not much of a runner, so I’m adding walking in here 🙂 Walks/runs are great ways to catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Instead of sitting at a noisy bar or restaurant, go for a nice walk along a trail or nearby neighborhood. Not only do you get your exercise in, but you actually have the time to talk to one another without being interrupted by hasty waiters or rude customers surrounding you.

Share a Treat

Usually, I like to paint my own nails – mostly to save some money. But every few months or so, I splurge and let myself enjoy a professional mani/pedi at an actual nail salon. It’s my quarterly “treat” to myself. Instead of enjoying these treats all by myself, occasionally I’ll invite one of my girls to come along with me. I admit, I prefer to go by myself most times (the introvert in me loves the alone time) but other times, when I know a friend of mine has been stressed lately, I’ll invite her to come along and get mani/pedis together. Your special treat may not be mani/pedis every months. You may go fishing every few months, or you may make the trek out to a nice beach/scenic area every once in a while. “Me time” is important, but sometimes it’s great to share a treat with someone you haven’t seen in a while.

When all else fails…

Go out and have that dinner or that night out bar hopping. Just don’t be afraid to let your friends know your limit as far as your budget goes. Bring cash, and leave the credit cards at home! Most of all, whatever you choose to do, enjoy the presence of your friends. You don’t need to spend tons of money to enjoy each others’ company. — How are you maintaining friendships on a budget?

AMDG, Lisa

Tracking Expenses Isn’t Easy

On my last net worth update, I declared that I would be tracking all of my expenses for the month of August.

Let me tell you right now – this is not easy. I almost want to throw in the towel already.

You see, every pay check, I withdraw a set amount of cash for “whatever I want”. Lunches that I bring back to my desk to eat, dinners with the BF after work, and any other little purchases here and there. Whenever I run out of cash, the idea is to stop spending until the next pay period. Simple, right?

However, I find myself spending much more than my allotted cash for the month. Once I run out of cash, and I see my credit card sitting in my  wallet, I let myself swipe a few times until my next pay day.

No wonder the battle with my credit card debt just never seems to end.

Even as I started blogging, I’ve always avoided really tracking expenses because 1) it’s time-consuming, and 2) I was really scared of what I would find. In general, as long as I was saving and as long as I’m making progress on some of my debt, I felt like I was already ahead of the pack. But that simply isn’t true. I never really broke down all the numbers, never truly examined where each dollar is really going. Yes, I’m saving and yes, I’m getting rid of debt – but every month I still feel like I’m drowning.

Last month, J. Money over at Budgets Are Sexy asked a question I always avoided asking myself: Do You Have Money Left Over Each Month? I don’t really know the exact numbers yet, but I know that at the end of each month I’m holding my breath until my next paycheck. I know I have an emergency fund in place in case anything goes wrong, but if my spending habits don’t change, then how long will that emergency fund last me? Not too long, I’m afraid.

So, this is why I’m going to commit to tracking expenses for August – so I can see if I have any money left over to throw at my goals or even if I’m in the red for the month. I’m scared to see what I’ll find, but I know that I can only get better once I know the full picture.

You can’t get better unless you know all the problems, right?

Do you think tracking expenses every month is important? Has it helped you?

AMDG,
Lisa

Fashion and Budgeting 101

[Happy Friday, Lovelies! Enjoy this guest post from Molly! Are you interested in guest posting? Leave me a message using my contact form.]

Do you ever walk into the mall for one thing? A new belt, solid colored top, or a dress for a special event? You walk out with four bags, a froyo, and a serious guilty conscience.

You are not alone.

We all think about it, but don’t speak of it. The cards that flood your mailbox for $20 off $100, an offer for an extra 15% off, or a promise for a special gift at a certain amount. The pressure to have it all. Just yesterday I was in the Limited (not affiliated) for their “buy one get one 50%” to strictly purchase work attire, and left with three bags worth of casual clothing. I am willing to bet if you are reading this a few days after the initial post date their sale is different…addicting? Yes! Genius? Heck yes!

LimitedSale

After reviewing my previous years statements I resolved to change my spending habits. To create and stick to an actual budget. Yes, I have officially become one of those people with cash stuffed in envelopes. What I have is what I can spend; anything over is just simply not going to make the cut. Thank you Dave Ramsey. Not familiar? Read about it!

EnvelopeMethod

Second, leverage what you already have! Those credit cards that you previously had applied to in order to get that 20% off have serious advantages. Rack those points up. Educate yourself on what cards work best. Personally, I started my search with a website a girlfriend from college now works at, Credit Card Insider. I read my card reviews with all fluff pushed aside. Check it out through this link. One tip: use your card, and then pay it off on the spot. You will rack up points, but not debt. Bonus!

Third, save for something that you love – and make it happen. It can’t be all work and no play. Ensure that you aren’t marking the big purchase until you have indeed SAVED the money – by all means, do not charge it. Currently I am saving up for Franco Sarto boots I saw when Christmas shopping (check them out below). It is only the second week into January and I already have $112 saved. Amazing, right?

Wishlist - Franco Sarto Boots

How do you save? It’s the little changes that can make a big impact for our wallet. I wish you all a wonderful New Year and thank Lisa for allowing me the opportunity to reach out to all of you!

mth

[Molly is a recent college grad enjoying city living! Molly is inspired by color and beauty and is a lover of vintage and fashion. Follow Molly through the eyes of a plus size world at Hart of Molly.]

Let’s Get Down to Business

Here is a graphic of my current budget from my last post:

40-30-20-10

Now, in order for me to be able to throw about $500 at my student loan debt, I need to shift some things around. I crunched a bunch of numbers, and this is what the new budget looks like:

LvtL budget

New budget allocations:

Necessary Expenses – 29% (from 40%)
Currently, I’m living in a 3 bedroom flat with 2 roommates in San Francisco. I’m paying about $900/month ($825 rent, plus electricity, water, utilities) for a master bedroom with my own bathroom. As I mentioned in my previous post, I will be moving in with my mom, auntie, and brother in about a month and instead will be splitting the mortgage. My own contribution will be $600 flat (this will include electricity, phone, water) – savings of $300/month.

However, my monthly Clipper Card (SF/Bay Area travel costs) will be increasing from $62/month to about $150/month. Still, I’m saving more than $200 in this category.

I’ve also moved my monthly loan payments from this category to the next category.

Student Loan (SL) Snowball – 19%
[For those who don’t know what a snowball in personal finance is (or an avalanche, for that matter), I’ll be a doing a post on it sometime in the near future. Keep a look out!]

I’ve decided to throw about $500/month at my loans. At this rate, I’d have my loans paid off by December 2015 – exactly 5 years from my graduation date.

Savings – 37% (from 30%)
I know, why did I increase my savings from 30% to 37%?

Well for starters, I’m starting to save for my own car and I want to buy this car by December of this year. So the savings for that aspect went up from $50/month to about $300/month.

Also, I’ll be starting to study for the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam in about a month or two. Registering for the exam and reviewing for it is not cheap ($100 initial registration, $743.20 total for all four parts of the test, and $3,245 for the review). I’ll be taking out an interest-free loan (the best kind!) for the review, but I need to start saving up for this whole process. Increased career savings from $0/month to $200/month.

Spending – 7% (from 20%)
I currently take out $100 cash every Monday and that is the only cash I’m allowed to use for lunches, nights out, groceries, and gas (when I get rides from people). I’m decreasing my weekly spending from $100/week to $40/week. *gasp* I know, I might cry, too! Initially I was going to go down to $20/week, but I think that just might be impossible. Well, we’ll see how this one goes! This means bringing lunches every day to work, less happy hours (drinks are expensive!), no more hookah (it had to be done), and no more careless spending (bye bye expensive makeup).

Tithing – 8% (from 10%)
I knew for sure that I was not going to eliminate tithing from my budget. Although I spend a lot of time doing ministry work (I’m very involved in my parish’s Young Adult Ministry), I still think that I can donate money to my home parish. I decreased my monthly contribution from 10% to 8% – not a big change.

So there’s the plan. June begins this Friday (already? goodness…) and so will this new budget. Can’t wait to get this ball rollin’!

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! Let’s not forget what the troops have done for us.

AMDG,
Lisa