Category Archives: Family

Upcoming Road Trip…

Today is my daughter’s first official day of Spring Break. It’s nice to have some extra time with her. We’re about to head about for a road trip, but before we make that jaunt,w e’ll pop by and visit with an older friend and after that? Who knows where Naomi (my Toyota Prius) will take us. My daughter loves it best when we have no plan and just go wherever…

YNAB Update

I’m still enjoying using YNAB (You Need a Budget) and will definitely be purchasing it once my two month trial is over. I’ve always been a person that has had a budget but I do like that YNAB is just as detailed with their budgeting software as I am. That’s why I haven’t used them before. I’m not exaggerating when I say that all the budgeting software programs that I checked didn’t meet my standards, but YNAB does. I like the fact that I’m manually entering the transactions. It really doesn’t take a lot of time, just a few seconds to log my purchases that I make. Since I’m already frugal, I can’t see it saving me a lot of money, but I do like that I have a digital view of my long term savings goals. Think budgeting is only for people that are bad with money? Think again. I’m not. It’s something I’ve always done and I had excellent examples, my parents. Candid conversations about finances were common in our family it wasn’t until later that I learned this was something not too many people did.

As I said, I’m a planner and to give you a look at what having a budget can do, read The Millionaire Next Door, if you haven’t already. I read that in my early thirties. It just confirmed what I already knew, a lot can be accomplished (regardless of the income you make) if you only learn to live below your means. Many of the case studies were done with people that weren’t making a lot of money, but what they all had in common was they did have a budget, lived below their means and they saved. Part of planning for the future, in some cases, it can mean attempting to take on another job or additional education, now granted, not everyone can afford paying for their own education without some type of assistance, but that’s where the research comes in seeing what’s available (plenty of programs/grants) that are able to assist and… time.

An unexpected financial surprise? No problem…

About two weeks ago, when receiving my paycheck, I noticed that my take home pay was $0.

I immediately knew what happened. Open enrollment had ended in early March and while I have taken advantage of all the programs that my job offers upon being hired (I signed up that next day) the Open Enrollment was a reminder to see if I wanted to increase anything. Of course that is something can do at anytime, since I’m already enrolled in the benefit packages available, but the Open Enrollment was my trigger. I did choose to increase the amount I contributed to a few of them. One of them was my 401k. Some of you might see where this is going. The tool, for the 401k site is a bit odd. They had a tool that showed how much would be deducted if you contributed a certain amount of your wages towards retirement. Entering 100% showed that the amount contributed wouldn’t be a lot and so I went with that. Well, you guessed it… 100% went to my 401k. Just a note, not all companies will let you put 100% of your paycheck into your 401k and that’s why I thought I was fine since it appeared that I was only contributing 100% of what was allotted biweekly, since it still showed me receiving a paycheck. I rarely make those types of assumptions, and it’s the first financial assumption that I’ve made and it will be the last.

I know I’ve been writing about budgeting a lot recently. Honestly, budgeting is nothing new for myself since it’s something I’ve been actively practicing for several years and I observed my parents who were amazing at maintaining a budget. Naturally, I wanted to emulate them. I will admit as the years progressed, I’ve become even better and I do think 2017 is the year for me to do much more. Why? It’s mainly because of the temporary sacrifices that I’ve made. About six months ago, I picked up an additional job that has me outside of the home, not to reduce debt, but to hit some long term goals. Bringing in additional income will make that happen sooner rather than later.

I wrote this post to say if I was living paycheck to paycheck this would have been a serious problem, but since I’m not, I laughed about it and corrected the issue. I told my daughter, parents and one friend and now those few folks who read my posts. I made adjustments to my future budget. I had zero dollars coming in from that company, within YNAB (You Need A Budget) and kept moving forward. Granted, there was one thing that I’d planned to purchase, that was put on hold. A heavy duty stick blender that I had planned on purchasing for making soap. I COULD get it now, the money is there since I do follow and adhere to a budget, however, I’ll hold off making that purchase until May 5. Getting to the point where being able to not worry about a hold on a paycheck didn’t matter, isn’t happening overnight. It happens by planning/making sacrifices and saving well before a crisis happens. To do that, you have to stick to a budget. YOu know when it really hit home? When I lost my job in health care. I was out of work for a year, however, since I had been a wise steward even though I was out of work that long, I was fine because I had enough money saved to support me while I looked for work. Also, since the money was there, I had the choice to hold out and take the job I wanted. When I went back to work, that long term savings wasn’t completely depleted, but it did need to be rebuilt. Budgeting won’t work unless you’re disciplined.

Oh, the good news is, when I saw my check yesterday, I wasn’t seeing $0 take home pay. I input the money into the YNAB app and assigned all the money from my paycheck jobs. Some of the ‘jobs’ included adding additional money to an emergency fund, adding money to what happens if I’m out of work and setting aside money for monthly expenses a few months from now. Sure, I’ve been assigning money jobs for years, but the app makes it easier. At least for me. I still wish it was available offline. Since I’m not living paycheck to paycheck the money assigned are all budgeted towards future expenses/savings. Years ago, it wasn’t that way. There has to be a beginning, but in time that changed. I’ve always been the ant or turtle.

What does the Bible say?

Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
7 Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
8 Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.
Proverbs 6:6-8
New American Standard Bible

Meal Planning…

Has YNAB made me a better budgeter? I’ve always done well with that, but I’d say it’s helped me reduce a bit more. It also made me seriously think about meal planning. I make most of the meals at home. In doing this, I’d definitely make meals in bulk. Which I do, but I’d increase it a lot. I just thought about this so that means my next step is researching meal planning software. I don’t need one with recipes since I come up with my own, but mainly something that I can easily input what I’ll be preparing. Bonus points for apps that let me try before I buy. I’m still in the trial period of You Need A Budget. I had one before using the app, but YNAB is something I will purchase once the trial ends next month.

Preparing for the unexpected: 2003 Toyota Prius Error Codes P3125 & P3130

Wasn’t I just writing about setting side money for the unexpected incidents in life? Well, this past Saturday, my Toyota Prius gave me this error code…

Needless to say, I wasn’t driving that anywhere until I got the codes read. I finally got them read today from Autozone.

Error Codes
P3125 Inverter Malfunction

P3130 Inverter Cooling System Malfunction

After additional research it looks like my problem is the inverter pump.

Earlier today, I popped the hood and did not see any turbulent motion within the reservoir. Hmm, that’s not good, but it’s easily fixable and while I watched a video on how to install the part (that should cost a little under $150) I’m just going to take it to my auto mechanic shop to get it repaired. I’m looking to spend a little over $300 to get it fixed. From my readings, the inverter pump should be replaced at 100,000 miles and since this is a little over 143,000 miles it’s gone over just a tad.

I must stay this is wonderful news. Initially, I thought the error code would be the main battery, which is quite costly. An estimate, I received was $1950, but that’s what’s planning for the unexpected is for, right? Each month, I set money aside for “car maintenance”. I have additional categories set aside for other things such as what happens if I lose my income (it could happen, not too much is guaranteed). Adding bits at a time, and having the wisdom not to touch what’s already been budgeted has been my key to being free of worry. Some of those categories has been set in place for years and has just meant minor sacrifices to set aside those saved funds for unforeseen events. Examples? Eating at home, forgoing some outside entertainment and using the money I would have spent on those activities to fund for unforeseen expenses. Because of doing these simple things, I have saved myself a lot of unexpected financial surprises.

 

While this expense is unexpected, it’s no big deal since I’ll simply use the money allotted for car maintenance.

Achieving goals: Turning dreams into reality

This is my second week back working the job that carries me out of the home. I’d been off for a few months. If you follow Dave Ramsey, he would call this a “Dave Job,” and while he encourages people to acquire a second job (if needed) to get out of debt, this isn’t why I chose the second job. Since I don’t have any debt looming over my head, this job is to help me reach some of my long-term goals much faster. About a year before I started working outside of the home, I sat my daughter down and told her about my decision. She’d already known, however, now she had a time-frame. After I started working, I talked with her again about her feelings and did she think there was anything I needed to do to make improvements. We are very close and I wanted to make sure that I still was spending adequate time with her. The only thing she wanted more of was car rides. Done! We take at least two extended drives weekly.

Picking up additional income, has been in my long-term plan and so as I already mentioned, this isn’t a recent decision. Anyone that knows me well, is aware of how I plan everything that I’m able. With this second job, I work nights. That brings its own challenges, not while I’m there, but when I return home. My mind wakes me up two – three hours after I’ve arrived home. Yeah… that can be hard, but I’m still moving forward. I’m determined and I have goals.

Part of achieving goals means surrounding myself with like-minded folks. It’s something I’ve always done, but as I became older, I stepped up my game a lot. Additionally, to achieve certain dreams it meant removed various things from my life. Which meant, reducing distractions. I don’t spend too much time online, it takes away from my focus and in rare cases some distractions have been people. I give respect to others so it makes sense to want the same in return, if it’s not given (after repeated chances) I distance myself. Over the past several years, I’ve only had to stop interacting with certain people two or three times.

 

Long term vacation planning, Europe or…?

This afternoon, I asked my daughter where she’d like to go on vacation once she graduated high school. That’s four years from and that gives me more than enough time me to save. She rattled down a few places; Hawaii, Bahamas, Bermuda… and then her eyes widened and she said, “London!”  Right now London, is at the top place on her short list. Who knows, it might change… she has four years after all, but that doesn’t matter. I’ll start saving the money to fund that trip soon. Four years will be more than enough time to turn that dream into a reality. Of course, after I get a sizeable amount set aside, I think the best option would be to let that money sit in a money market account or something similar so it can accumulate a bit more interest as it matures. I still have time to decide on what way I’ll be going with that since I won’t start saving for her trip until after schooling (she attends private school) for the next year is paid. That should be taken care of before summer.

Cold processed soap just added to their soap molds

Soapmaking

We were supposed to get lots of snow overnight and throughout the day and while it started out that way, we ended up with a few inches of snow and a lot of freezing rain! Brr…. thankfully I had no where to go, and of course my daughter’s school was closed which meant we had more time to hang out together and this evening, I made some more cold processed soap. It’s a new recipe that I created and it should produce a hard bar of soap with lots of lather. I can’t wait to try it and see what my testers think about the soap. I’ll give this about six weeks to cure. I scented it with cedarwood essential oil.

Another You Need a Budget mention…

Since I had a lot of extra time today, I made the most of it, by spending time with my daughter. I do that daily, but since she’s out of school, well we had more time. Also, I did some work with my business and I actually sat in on a You Need A Budget (YNAB) seminar titled,

Pay for Big Expenses without Borrowing

Learn to use your budget to help you pay cash for big ticket items instead of borrowing. Whether it’s a wedding, a new baby or a major home improvement, we’ll show you how budgeting can help you avoid the debt trap and find the cash to make your bigger financial goals a reality.

I might have mentioned this class in an earlier post. I logged into the class knowing how to do this, and I already incorporate that into my own life, but I figured I might pick up some helpful tips also. After all, it’s not always wise to assume you know too much about a topic. I don’t. I’m always willing to learn more. There was a lot of information that I had known, but it was nice hearing that others are doing similar things as myself. And I did pick up a few great tips. The lady who taught the class, is older and has children that are married with their own children. Some of her big expenses came at Christmas, when her and her husbands children and their grandchildren came home for the holidays. For her, planning in advance meant no extra bills after Christmas was over. I shared my story about my recently purchased car, that I’d been saving for, and my long-term goal… vacation. I also mentioned including my daughter in the budgeting process and that’s when she shared something awesome. Students can take advantage of You Need a Budget for free. Yes, their first year is free. It’s normally $50. Currently, I’m still under my trial period. I have two months, and eight days. When I was in my early twenties, it took me a lot longer to save for big purchases. In some cases, additional sacrifices were made to reach those goals sooner. It was definitely worth the effort.

Dry Erase boards and YNAB update

I’m a planner. I tend to write things down. My daughter is the same. If I’m away from home and don’t have pen and paper available, I’ll send myself a text using my phone. Outside of texting my daughter, it’s about the only time I use my text function or any other “smart features” that my iPhone possesses.

I’ve been thinking about getting a whiteboard for a while. I think of it as my Vision Board. I have one in my head and do write it on paper, but it might be nice to have something physical that I see daily. Currently, I’m researching them. Do you know they aren’t all the same? Some aren’t suitable for heavy use and since mine will receive a lot, it makes sense to purchase a suitable board. The dry erase board would mainly be utilized for my small business. Using it is something that I don’t have to think about, I would! I love order and this is just one way to accomplish that. I most likely will purchase one within the next few weeks. Joining me on my journey is my daughter. She has a large chalkboard on a wall in her room. She’s had that since she was about nine or ten. Over the years, it’s received a lot of use and it really should be replaced. I do believe I’ll replace that with a whiteboard. When I told her about this, she was ecstatic. She has a small one and uses that often.

I’m Loving the You Need a Budget (aka YNAB) Software

Regarding the You Need A Budget software, I like it a lot although I’m not thrilled that it isn’t available offline. However, if I DON’T find an equivalent, I’ll definitely be purchasing this software. It reminds me a lot of my written budget but this does things a bit quicker. I’ll still keep my written budget, but YNAB can take things to a higher level. YNAB is simple to use, but to stay on top of your finances you have to stay on top of it, at least initially. I imagine as the months progress, I won’t have to be as diligent since the fields I’ve created will carry over into the next month. Another thing I’m enjoying are the free classes that YNAB offers to everyone. By the way, I’m not getting paid to write about YNAB, I’m just impressed and thought I’d share some of what I’m learning here on my website.

Yesterday I sat in on a webinar that was geared towards businesses and later in the week, I’ll tune in to listen to a class focused on ways to save for big expenses without using credit cards. Granted, I already know how to do this, my last semi big purchase was my Toyota Prius, If you factor in the car purchase ($3,000) the tags, taxes and insurance, it was a little under $3700. I paid that in full with my debit card. I’ve made much higher purchases, but I’m always open to listening to discussions about topics I’m familiar with and I might learn a few things also. What gets my attention? Someone that manages their time, or is willing to learn how to manage their money wisely. Granted, there are going to be cases where this is difficult or even impossible to accomplish based on debt, job loss, etc., However, I’m referring to those who aren’t in any of those situations but by their appearances, could care less about their future. I have met people my age (46) who have done nothing to save for potential retirement. That to me is a bit scary. There’s no way I’m relying on the government to take care of me if/when I decide to stop working. So naturally, my partner would have to have a similar mindset. I have no desire to have anyone sponging off my hard work simply because they didn’t plan for their retirement. That’s something else I’m looking into, retiring earlier. I still have several years to decide, but until I make that decision, I’m tossing a lot towards turning that into a reality… if that’s my choice.

Budgeting software: You Need a Budget

When it comes to my budget, the way I typically keep track of my finances is pen and paper. It gets the job done, as long as you use it (I do) and it has suited me well for many years. A few years ago I DID try Quicken. I used it occasionally, but wasn’t married to it and found myself going back to pen and paper. I purchased it last year and… same thing. I wasn’t really impressed with it and stopped using it quickly. What a waste of money… at least for me. Since I rarely waste money, that stung a bit.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a new to me software application titled You Need a Budget and I must say that I’m really enjoying it immensely. I’m currently using the trial (I was actually offered two months for free) and I leaped at the opportunity. I like that I have so much control of how I use this software, of course I do. I keep a tight rein on my finances. You have to if you want to stay on top of things and while you can link to your bank accounts (just like Quicken) I won’t. I never was comfortable with that feature, and while I HAD used it, in the past, with Quicken. I eventually removed that capability.

I must sat the amount of people living paycheck to paycheck is a bit sobering. Sure, the economy definitely is a factor in some instances, but in others? It’s just poor decision making. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck but are continually eating out, perhaps you need to rethink your priorities. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and received a tax refund, but instead of using that money to eliminate some debt (if you have it) you decide to purchase some wants… yeah you might need to rethink your priorities. I’ve met some of these people. I must admit, there lack of taking responsibility and getting aggressive about tackling their debt does leave me puzzled. For me, paying bills as they come (I don’t have debt, just monthly bills) having an emergency fund and being able to survive for several months if something were to happen to me, makes all the sacrifices I have made worth the effort.

My parents were fabulous examples of being a good steward. I’m a Christian and God commands me to do just that. I’m passing on what I’ve learned to my daughter. So yes… she sees me make budgets and adhere to them. She also sees me write down monetary goals, setting aside money for big purchases that I can pay in full, and do what’s needed to meet them.

But back to You Need a Budget… by the way isn’t that a catchy phrase? It’s quite accurate, right? I do like the free webinars that they offer, a lot of what is said isn’t new to me, but you know what? At times, it is nice to be surrounded by others, even virtually, who totally get it when it comes to staying on top of their finances. I’ve watched several of their videos and while they don’t come out and say it, it’s very obvious that credit cards aren’t put on a pedestal to whip out and use often. You know what is? Budgeting, paying bills as they come and saving so you can get to the point where you are able to make large purchases without a credit card. I only used a credit card, briefly, in my early thirties.