Category Archives: budgeting

2017 $$$ Goal

house-of-money

I realized recently why I have not been able to stick to budgets very well in this past year. I don’t really have a concrete $$$ goal any more. In late 2012 (the FUCCD days), it was to get myself out of over $13k of credit card debt within one year. After that, it was to tackle the student loans (the birth of this blog) by X date. When I landed my current job 2 years ago, it came with a sweet student loan payoff helper I negotiated, and I’ve been lazily just paying off the minimum balance since then. 2015 was nuts with simultaneously saving up for a wedding AND A HOUSE (which also both had a due date). Now that all those things have been checked off, it’s been hard to focus on staying on track, because…meh.

I was playing around with some numbers over the weekend, and realized that if I can keep my own variable expenses down to $750/month, I can actually throw in $1,400/month into savings. We’ve been trying to save for home repairs, but not until the credit card gets paid off. So my goal this year is to save up $15,000 for various home improvements, like a new roof, fence for the yard, paint, and other random things. The deadline for this goal is December 31, 2017. (Sure I’ll probably be spending it along the way, but I will definitely track how much I’m kicking to savings each month.)

The credit card is down to $3,233.17 today (I know, not much difference since last month, although it climbed up way higher and we were able to throw $1,800 towards it) and our tax refund (over $2000) should be on its way tomorrow. I’ve been tracking it. I’m fairly confident this card will get closed out by the end of the month and am also moving any recurring expenses off of it.

Oh yeah! Before I forget, my new student loan balance as of the 1st of this month is $52,359.53. My payoff helper will be kicking in $10k towards this by the end of the month, which will be so exciting to finally get it down to less than half of what the original amount was. Huzzah!

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2017: A New Hope…more updates, and a no-shopping challenge.

14878879-broken-piggy-bank-filled-with-loose-change-stock-photo
SO! 2016 blogging was kind of a bust. I mean UGH, I blogged twice! February and May. That’s it! PATHETIC!
What is also embarrassingly pathetic is that credit card debt got a bit out of control with some unexpected summer expenses, and then I just had the mentality of “f**k it, whatever!” as far as budgeting goes. I guess after finally getting the house and paying for the wedding, and even getting the student loan situation manageable, I fell in the trap of “it’s okay, you deserve it!” Life has been very stressful. Retail therapy!
As of today, my CC debt is up to $3,879.76. (Where’s the throw-up emoji?) It pains me to write that in a blog post (which is probably why I have not blogged, which is probably MORE REASON to blog).
Less pathetic:
My student loan balance as of January 1, 2017 is $52,736.20. WOW! That’s 44.5% paid off since the birth of this blog!
This is especially exciting because I visited my parents over Christmas vacation and when I helped clean out my old childhood bedroom, I found old student loan statements back when I consolidated all of them (back in late 2006 and early 2007–a decade ago). My totals back then were about $97,000-ish. When I started this blog in September 2013, they were only down to $95,000-ish–a measley $2k paid off in 7 years. In early 2015, when I was looking at starting this current job, I wanted student loan debt payoff to be part of my salary package, and it was down to $71,000-ish (almost $24k paid off in the 2+ years since the blog of the birth). I had been aggressively throwing all my extra income at the mountain of debt, we’re talking about an extra $1,500 per month, and one time even threw in over $5,000 of my Christmas bonus (which is a ridiculously large Christmas bonus).
Now another 2 years later, and it’s another $18.5k down with just paying the minimum payment each month. I’m not having to throw in big extra payments like I used to, and I’m still on track to pay everything off by February or March of 2020.
Good job and pat on the back for the student loans part!
Horrible job on the credit card debt!
The two things I will focus on in 2017 for this finance blog will be:
1. Go back to blogging a monthly update on the state of affairs (student loans and credit card debt). ACCOUNTABILITY!
2. Implement a NO SHOPPING CHALLENGE for all non-essential items. I have a small stack of gift cards, so if I get the urge to buy something, I will consult the gift card stash.
Maybe in the next post I’ll go on a little soapbox about how budgeting is like being on a diet, and my twisted and sordid relationship with budgeting calories, in the meantime, happy new year to my faithful readers! (If anyone is still out there…say hi.)

*Escape Plan in process*

Details shall be kept tightly under wraps until it is time for The Big Reveal. Things are going quite well though. We will be finding ourselves in a happier situation pretty soon… In the meantime, I was making an updated “Home Savings Plan” and thinking hypothetically, if we were to live rent-free somewhere and I was still making minimum payments on the loans, I’d be able to save up a maximum of $2500/month. Maybe even as much as $2700 if we are extra frugal!

Then I saw my old post from October (“speeding tickets, and a tentative home savings plan…”) and was kind of like WHAT?! What kind of crack was I smoking? I had said something like how we would be saving $4500 to $5000 per month if we moved in with my parents. UM… I’m really not sure how I came up with that gigantic number, as that was assuming we were making the same salaries. Even with no rent, we’d still have a car payment, groceries, utilities, minor student loan payments and other living expenses.

Anyway, ha! It is kind of fun cataloging my thoughts so I can look back (and that was only 3 months ago!) and compare the reality to what I was originally calculating and kind of laugh at myself.

Do any of you find it hilarious how naive you were when you first put together a personal finance plan, versus realistic numbers?

July makes sub 80k! even sub 79k!

Sadly for the blogging world, this once-a-month update is what’s it’s come down to this summer. But it’s summer time, triathlon season is in full swing (yay), and work continues to work me way too hard (boo). Still, my monthly finance reports are enough to keep me accountable and are my bare minimum for keeping the blog going!

So YES, I AM FINALLY UNDER $80K!!! Whoop whoop! I even snuck in under $79k with a new total of $78,807.33 (balance checked on August 4th). I think I’m a little behind on my original game plan, but you can’t deny that it’s progress since the starting balance of over $95k. I put $1,815.90 toward Sallie Mae, but $293.81 of it was interest, so only $1,522.09 went to my balance. Still trying to get my monthly contribution (minus interest) over that $1500 hump!

July marked the beginning of real wedding planning. My bestie and Maid of Honor flew in from Texas, so we tried on dresses, looked at invitations, and sampled tons of cupcakes. I went over in the various dining out budgets for obvious reasons and was also $57 over in the grocery budget (however that includes $50 to renew my Costco membership, so I was actually pretty good).

I went over in the “Fun Fund” as I paid for another triathlon entry fee ($117 for an Olympic tri), but this is most likely the last entry fee I’ll pay for 2014 as I’ve paid for races through next February at this point! And I really do need to set up some sort of “Triathlon Fund…” imaginary or whatnot!

I’m glad I do look over my budgets once a month because I realized that I was fingerprinted for work ($45) and need to get reimbursed for that.

In cohabitation news, we finally opened up a joint checking account! This is just to help us split up the household expenses (i.e. rent) better. We also put together a fairly rudimentary wedding budget ($4,850) but still have to do more research and decide what we can cut (like I don’t think we really need a DJ) to make things feasible. I actually took our outfits out of the wedding budget as I felt that however we got married (huge ceremony or eloping), I’d still buy the same dress. So the budget is more for the ceremony and reception/party we’re throwing. And my dress budget is still under $500 and I’m sticking to it!

That’s the scoop! Just chipping away at it… Until next time!

Emptying and “Shopping” My Fridge

So it’s nearly the middle of the month and I’ve only spent $140 of the allotted $500 grocery budget thus far. I usually hit up the grocery store at least once a week, but last weekend, thought “You know what? Let’s keep eating everything in the fridge, freezer, and pantry until we REALLY need to go food shopping.”

I was about to go on Sunday when I did inventory of our freezer and saw we still had a ton of Costco burgers, shrimp, flounder, hot dogs, pork chops, some chicken nuggets and tator tots and chicken tenders, and green beans. In the fridge was red cabbage, red bell peppers, onions, bacon, avocado and guacamole. There’s rice and taco shells in the pantry, amongst other snacks. PLENTY of food to last through Friday! (We are headed out of town Friday night to do a wedding scouting trip, YAY!)

So kind of like Michelle’s “Shop My Closet Project“, I’m just “shopping my fridge” before getting some more stuff. The next grocery trip will probably be a big one to replenish what we’ve got, but it’s amazing how much food we still have when we think we’re “running low” and need to get more.

Anything else wait to go grocery shopping until they absolutely are out of food??

a planned STALL in debt repayment :(

So just as I’m starting to pick up some great momentum in the debt repayment department (try saying that 10x fast!), that progress is going to be put completely on hold for the next few months…hopefully two months at the most, or even just a month and a half!

March/April probably wasn’t the best time to schedule a move to a new place as we are doing a little vacation/race trip to New Orleans and Florida the first weekend of April…AND I probably owe $2000+ in taxes on April 15th. 😦 So a couple days ago I just put down a big security deposit of $1500 (which is more than the $600 I put down for our current digs, all of which we hope to get refunded), in addition to moving expenses and the “overlapping rent” while we give ourselves time to move things 5 miles up the street.

Luckily we bought our plane tickets for the trip already (just need hotel accommodations which will be split with friends). Also March is an “extra paycheck” month, and this Friday will be my first paycheck post-10% raise. Mr. Bacon also realizes we don’t need to hire movers, maybe just a small moving truck for the couches, bed, and big bookcase we have. Since we have several weekends of “overlapping rent”, that gives us time to move the smaller things a little at a time. I also have over $2000 in the emergency fund, and it looks like it’s time to pull some of that money out.

I’m also 4 months ahead on the portion of the Sallie Mae loans with a higher interest rate, so I cancelled my automatic debit payments for that until I get back on track. (Unfortunately I then realized that this removes the 0.25% interest rate deduction for automatic debit, but I’ll get back on that program ASAP.) So the next couple months, I’ll only be paying the minimum of $242 for the lower interest loans so that I have more cash to pay for these moving expenses and taxes.

This of course means the possibility that my total loan amount may actually go UP about $60 this month, as I’ve been paying about $300 in interest each month. We’ll have to see. I’m hoping it will only be February and part of March I have to do this, and that I can still put at least $1000 down in March. Then I’ll get completely back on track in April!

In the meantime, I realize I’m lucky to have a job and income that allows me to move my money around like this, and I know I’m still ahead of my original uber-conservative game plan…for now. Being a couple months behind will put me behind that original game plan, but I can play catch up once we get over this hump. More income + decreased expenses means I can contribute more, about a $1900 decrease in debt each month (more than the original $1500), which will have me back on track to be under the $80k mark around July.

Anyone else have to pull out some emergency funds and temporarily stop debt repayment?

Did we really need a second car?

YES!

Over the weekend, Mr. Bacon and I bought a brand new 2014 Chevy Equinox. (Well, technically, he and his father co-signed for one and my name is nowhere on the car loan, but taking a cue from Anna, I am also Transitioning the “Me” Thinking Into “We” Thinking…)

We had been a successful one-car household for a while and were doing pretty okay–when I didn’t need the car every day for work. There were even a couple months when our work schedules aligned perfectly (in that, they aligned completely oppositely) so that I had the car Tuesdays and Thursdays for the office requiring some outside driving, while he needed it MWF.

But once I got promoted to that office full-time, I was constantly needing the car so I could always have the ability to do some outside calls (rehab hospitals and nursing homes) on some of those days (they’re pretty unpredictable). We were carpooling almost every day and it was a bit of a strain. Especially because he starts work at 6 or 7am, and I don’t have to be in the office until 8.

Since I’ve been working so much more but had to get up early to carpool, I didn’t get much opportunity to sleep in when I was feeling exhausted, or do my morning workouts to alleviate the stress. Picking him up after work on some of his 12-hour shifts meant I usually didn’t have time or energy to squeeze in a workout after work either–in fact I would usually just drop him off, go straight to work myself, and then stay until it was time to pick him up. So I was almost working 12-hour shifts too! I’ve been really tired and cranky, which of course puts a strain on the relationship.

Plus, Mr. Bacon didn’t have the ability to work some overtime hours if he was asked, as he didn’t want me to stay up past midnight just to pick him up or yank me around if his closing time changed unexpectedly. Overtime pays 1.5x so we were missing out on some big bucks there!

So yes…having a second car can be seen as a convenience, but I think it was necessary for the health and sanity of our relationship (and some extra income!). Sure there’s now a $300 car payment each month, but getting a new car vs. keeping his old one was also necessary–his previous truck was 15 years old and had a history of breaking down the last few months he was really using it. He was able to sell it for $3200, and used most of that along with his big tax refund ($1400–yay!) for a down payment. His father also has a GM credit card with $2000 in points he let us use to put towards a new car (which is why he is a co-signer), and is also a master negotiator–he haggled another $2000 of credit with various bonuses somehow, taking the retail price down $4k!

I think the best thing to come out of this (other than all the conveniences and benefits of having a sweet new car that will take us on many road trips and adventures!) is that Mr. Bacon was completely motivated to look over his budgets and get his finances in order. SO proud 😉

It also forced me to transition more to “we” thinking and thinking of our combined household finances as one. That whole second parking spot was the impetus for us to start looking for a new place. Yes, an update on that–we are about to sign a 2-year lease for the 1-bedroom condo with two free parking spots for $305 less per month. (Our current landlord never got back to us about negotiating for free parking…but we are ready to get out of a studio anyway.) If you think about it, that keeps our total household costs about the same when you put in the $300 monthly car payment! Only we’ll have a bigger place…with our own washer/dryer and community swimming pools (drooling here!) AND a new car.

I’ll consider this a win-win for the Bacon household. 😀

The Broke Ass Triathlete’s Guide to Planning a Cheaper Race Season

It’s that time of year again! Time to scramble to plan the 2014 race season and register for races during the “early bird pricing” period, before they go up on Jan 1st. Here are 10-ish tips from your veteran broke ass triathlete (14 years experience and counting!):

1. Sign up early but not too early. You want to sign up early enough for events where the price goes up the closer to the event, but not too early, as you never know about unexpected injuries, changes in your fitness level, or if there are other life stressors or events that may be happening (weddings, graduations, big project at work). You don’t want to throw away money on entry fees if you end up not even getting to the starting line, as there are so many with a no-refund policy. (This happened to me at the very first Ironman I signed up for back in 2001. Bye-bye $350. At least it wasn’t $675 like it is now…)

I personally like to limit myself to 6 months in advance. At this point, I’ll sign up for triathlons in May and June, along with some trail running events before then, but am holding off on anything afterward. It’s just too far out to plan. I know this doesn’t work if you are trying to get into an event that sells out crazy early, but see “race smaller grassroots events” below.

2. Local races vs. destination races: Race locally. You save on travel expenses (gas and hotels) and get to sleep in your own bed and eat foods you are familiar with. I recently signed up for an annual membership to this local running club; for just $35 per year, you get free entry to one or two running events they hold every month! There are no t-shirts or finisher medals, but I’ve done so many for so long that I don’t really need all that swag unless it’s a very special race. Last year I committed to only racing triathlons (and running races) that were within driving distance, because flying with your bicycle is a whole ‘nother hassle (and major expense if you don’t know how to work the system).

3. Race smaller grassroots events. I used to race a lot of the big name, “brand name” events (*cough* WTC *cough* Ironman), but found over time that the prices have gotten overinflated, they’re less personal, the events are over crowded and you get less “bang for your buck.” They also tend to sell out a year in advance, which is too far out for me to plan these days. I love doing smaller events because you get to meet the race director and a lot of times it’s a family affair; you get to see that they really put their heart and soul in it and care about the athletes. They charge less and you can usually still sign up a month in advance, if not the morning of the event.

4. Opt out of the race t-shirt. I signed up for a trail running race recently where there was an option to not get the race t-shirt, in which case you could save $5 off the registration price. I have enough shirts, so I checked this box to save a little bit of cash, and room in my dresser!

5. Make those destination races count–with friends! If you do want to go further from home, plan to race and travel with friends to split up costs. Sharing the race experience with friends is what makes it extra fun, after all! I love to do this because some of my favorite triathlon friends don’t even live in the same state that I do, so we hardly see each other as it is. So why not make the race a reunion as well, and save on costs together? Genius.

6. Discount codes. Before handing your credit card number over, do the same thing that you would do if you were shopping online (at least what I would do, anyway): Google the race name and “discount code”. Sometimes they are posted on Facebook pages, local club websites, or even printed in magazines. I’m also a member of a big national club, Team RWB, which costs nothing to join, and gives huge discounts on races they want big club representation at. Disclaimer: I’m a member of the club because I support their cause, not for the discounts as I didn’t even know about them til later! Bonus perks 😉

7. Limit race frequency. Really think about if you’ll be prepared enough to do every race you’ve written down, or if you may end up half assing them. I used to race TONS, and I know there’s truth in the theory of “racing yourself into shape.” At the same time, racing very frequently does not always produce the best results if you are not able to train much in between races, or give yourself adequate recovery. Moreso, going with the purpose of this post, racing frequently as a way to get faster is not cheap at all. I’d rather put in some solid training for free, and have a handful of races that I can really perform well in. Originally I had up to two Olympic triathlons per month on my tentative 2014 schedule until I realized that racing every other weekend was too expensive and just not practical in terms of building up the speed and endurance I wanted. Especially since I only ended up putting in enough training to race one triathlon (an Olympic distance) last year–let’s not bite off more than I can chew. (I’m really good at that.) I’m limiting it to one Olympic triathlon per month, some even 6 weeks apart.

8. Limit length of the race season to prevent burnout too. For me, triathlon season is May through September (or even October), and I’ll do some running races from November through April. A pretty even 6 month/6 month split, with some overlap as I’ll still throw in some running races throughout tri season to keep some spark in the running legs.  I like to be done before Halloween, so I can enjoy that holiday along with Thanksgiving and Christmas (as evidenced by my current state of fitness…). When I used to race more competitively, it was a February through November triathlon season. Whew. That was exhausting to both my body and my bank account! This year I may “only” do 4 Olympic triathlons. We’ll see.

9. Take into consideration the types and distances of the events that will keep your mind, body, and wallet from getting burnt out. Triathlons tend to be more expensive than running races, but Olympic triathlons are also much cheaper than half and full Ironmans. (They also require less training, which match my current work demands much better.) Right now, “early bird pricing” on some local Olympic triathlon events are as low as the $75-$80 range, which is similar pricing to (if not cheaper than) some of the big name marathons and half marathons. I’ve seen typical Olympic tri pricing more in the $120-$160 range, ugh. Tiny local running events (as mentioned above with no shirts or medals) can be found as low as the $5 to $10 range.

10. Set aside an annual budget for racing. This is something I haven’t employed before, as I used to throw race expenses into my monthly “Fun Fund”, which didn’t always work as there are many times you sign up for something x months in advance. Or like around this time of year, when you may sign up for 3 or 4 events at all once. I like the idea of limiting myself to how much I can spend in terms of entry fees and travel expenses for each event. These costs tend to be spread over the course of the year, so it makes sense to lump them into an annual budget vs. a monthly budget. I have yet to come up with a number for the annual racing budget, and I’ll probably do an annual travel budget as well. They’re in the works!

Bonus tip from college racing days! Camp instead of booking a hotel, or get hooked up with a homestay. When I was a young little tri newbie in college, we always picked the camping option as many races are at lakes with campgrounds. This could be as low as $20 or cheaper for a tent spot, compared to about $80-$100/night for a hotel/motel. You can also cast your net wide in your circle of friends, teammates, or alumni networks (hello, Facebook!) and try to get hooked up with a homestay. When I rowed in grad school, we would often get hosted by a local alumni family at regattas that were in the next state over. The other great thing about being a part of a national team like Team RWB? You can take turns hosting or homestaying with other teammates in different parts of the country!

Good luck this upcoming season! Any tips I’ve left out on how to keep your racing costs down?

Budget Refinement: Trimming the Fat!

You know what cracks me up about Sallie Mae’s website? After you sign in with your username and password, the next page has you enter your SSN and DOB…for “extra security”. You know, so someone can’t hack into the “manage your loans” page and…pay your loans off for you.

Right?! I wouldn’t mind if a hacker wanted to pay my loans for me!

Anyway, Friday was payday, the second paycheck of the month. (The first one goes mostly to rent, the second one goes mostly to student loans.) I figured I would go ahead and dump my $1,000 extra payment to Sallie Mae, since interest compounds DAILY. Which still pisses me off to no end every time I think about it. I actually made a third column in my nerdy spreadsheet, next to the “conservative” and “more aggressive” plans, that shows  my decreasing total balances each month, how much my payments were, and how much I paid in interest.

That interest column has ranged from $227 to $424 each month! Augh!! Keeping that interest in mind and staying pissed off about it will continue to be my biggest motivator.

So in my last post, I was saying how my current budget allows me to throw $1,100 (actually $1,112) in extra payments at Sallie Mae, but I’m hoping to get a raise soon, which will let me contribute $1,334 like my game plan tells me to start doing in January. BUT. As much as I think a raise is inevitable, I don’t know when it will actually happen. (Staying positive–it’s not if, but when!)

SO. I decided it was time to look at the budget again and do some more tweaking to see where I could free up more money for the loans. I’m going to keep my actual income and rent confidential, and we can leave the other fixed expenses alone (cell phone bill and gym membership). Let’s take a look at the variable expenses:

  • Auto & Transport $120
  • Groceries $550
  • Fast Food $65
  • Restaurant $65
  • Home Supplies $100
  • Cash $120
  • Fun Fund $200

Ok, let’s break this down…as I’m doing this, I’m also looking at my “Trends” in Mint.com over the last 12 months. It seems like the perfect time to do this now, because I’ve been living here for just about a year now!

AUTO & TRANSPORT: These expenses have actually been pretty consistent and include gas, tolls, parking and public transit. Since me and Mr. Bacon share a car, and he was the one using it most for a while (I was walking or biking to work), he pays for most of the gas tank fill-ups. Meanwhile, I’m the one that pays for the E-Z pass (that’s our regional toll tag). I’m still on my dad’s auto insurance plan (THANKS DAD!!) and don’t have a car payment either. I did start driving to work 2x/week since I’ve been needing to do some outside calls, so I fill up the gas tank some times, but my company will also reimburse me for some of that travel. So that should offset the auto expenses if they go up, but they’ve actually been holding fairly steady. I averaged $124/month for the last 12 months! Which is probably just slightly higher than $120 because I got new windshield wipers in August. I have friends with ridiculous auto budgets ($400-800) because of gas and car payments, so I guess I’ll consider myself lucky in this category!

EATING (NOM NOM NOM): This includes groceries, fast food, and restaurants (sub-categorized to keep me on track). Mr. Bacon tends to pay when we go out to eat, and I’ll pay for the groceries most of the time, but occasionally it’s vice versa. I most always pack my lunch (brought up as a frugal Asian–my mom never gave us lunch money and always packed our lunches growing up), but every now and then will buy lunch if I’ve run out of stuff at home or felt lazy. So that’s “fast food”. Also if we are on a road trip, which we do at least once or twice a month. I actually tend to spend under $100 a month for dining out (fast food + restaurants combined). In debit purchases anyway…we’ll discuss cash soon enough. Groceries I think we can bring down to $500 from $550. There was a brief period over the summer where I went a little hog-wild on the groceries. It hit a max of $695 in August, at which point I was all “whoa, Nelly!” and reined us back in.

HOME SUPPLIES: you know what this category is? In all honesty, it’s my Target budget. (I am cringing in embarrassment.) Home supplies should technically be things like toilet paper and toothpaste and cleaning supplies…you know…”stuff you get at Target”. But we all know how hard it is to leave Target without spending $100 or more! It’s like a black hole of awesomeness! So having a Target budget of $100 is almost like giving myself permission to spend $100 at Target each month. That’s no good. Target and Amazon and Costco are the three places that are black holes for my wallet. So this budget needs to be cut back pronto!

CASH: self-explanatory. I don’t know how I came up with $120. Because it’s 6 x $20 bills? I usually keep a $20 on me which goes to random stuff like coffee at work (only on very tired days), the occasional lunch at work, or going out with friends so that splitting the bill doesn’t get too complicated. It’s kind of there as spillover from the EATING category, if you really think about it. I probably only take out a $20 bill each week (my bank, Chase, isn’t in this area so it’s usually just $20 cash back from the weekly grocery trip), so let’s cut this back to 4 x $20 = $80. Oh! It does also go to replenishing the laundry card, which me and Mr. B take turns doing. (We live in a high-rise apartment and unfortunately don’t have a W/D in the unit. Sucks.)

FUN FUND: This has gone to anything from clothes, to race entry fees, to gifts for others and mp3’s. In 2014 I’ll do something different and allocate a specific amount I want to spend on triathlons and running races for the year, and throw it into the savings account, so I can withdraw it when I need it. Meaning I can (should?) cut the Fun Fund back to $100. $200 is a lot of fun to have for a whole month when you are trying to pay off student loans! Probably too much fun. I’ll also make a one-time “gifts” budget for this month with Christmas coming up. And I need to figure out what to do about putting aside Travel money…

Here we go! The New Budget:

  • Auto & Transport $120 (same)
  • Groceries $500 (-$50)
  • Fast Food $65 (same)
  • Restaurant $60 (-$5)
  • Home Supplies $70 (-$30)
  • Cash $80 (-$40)
  • Fun Fund $100 (-$100)

Total decrease in variable expenses: -$225

Add that to the $1,112 I was contributing extra to Sallie Mae, and now I can put a total of $1337 extra to the student loans on my current salary!

So what do your budgets look like compared to mine? Are there any stores that are black holes for your wallet, or any categories you can trim the fat off of?

the big bonus distribution

So if you read my final FUCCD post, I mentioned a completely unexpected big bonus from work (which I only started in January). Who ever heard of a mid-year bonus? Not me! So, hooray! September also happens to be an “extra paycheck” month (I get paid every two weeks on Fridays). Double hooray! While I won’t disclose exactly how massive the bonus was, well, okay it was more than two paychecks (!!!) and certainly more than the maximum deposit I could make using my Chase mobile app. (Yes, it was a really ridiculous amount!) I needed to drive to the closest Chase ATM to deposit it, which is actually a 2-hour drive away, before it burned a big hole in my pocket, and yes, finding a new local bank is another story for another day.

Instead of blowing through all my bonus money irresponsibly, the first thing I did was pay off the rest of the credit cards (which was the plan with the “extra paycheck” anyway), and then figure out how to distribute the wealth.  I spent the last 10 months really cracking down on my spending: I haven’t had a hair cut. I haven’t flown anywhere (my family lives on the other side of the country). I haven’t raced any triathlons (because entry fees are super expensive, I’m out of shape and *was* unmotivated). So while I wasn’t going to blow through ALL my bonus money, I thought it was fairly reasonable to have fun with some of it. Say, 20% of it.

Most of it, though, was distributed responsibly:

  • 47% to the emergency fund
  • 24% to the student loans
  • 20% for fun!
  • the remaining 9% stayed in the checking account for the regular expenses.

I actually made a special one-time-only budget for September in my Mint.com app. I categorized it as “Entertainment” since I already have a monthly “Fun Fund” of $200.

things I spent it on so far:

  • a triathlon entry fee for October (with 20% off coupon code!)
  • new swimsuit and goggles (from Amazon)
  • new bike pedals (super deal online)
  • new socks and underwear and sports bras (from Target)
  • nice camping backpack (from my local REI…had a coupon but didn’t work because it was meant for REI brand only. Oh well. I still really wanted it!)
  • 2 pairs of shoes for Mr. Bacon (from Amazon)
  • baseball tickets to see the Phillies (Mr. Bacon’s home team) at Nationals stadium (still cheap seats but not the cheapest)

So I still try to be a savvy shopper when I am spending money, going to my trusty local Target and Amazon.com, finding discount codes and scouting out the best internet deals. I haven’t actually bought a new swimsuit in over 2 years, my favorite goggles are about that old, and my bike pedals must be 4 or 5 years old…which I got as slightly used hand-me-downs at the time. The triathlon is going to be my only one for the year, and it’s a smaller local race 30 miles away, which will keep the costs down.

Anyway, I’m happy with how I split up my unexpected windfall. How would you do it? More responsibility and less fun?? More fun and less responsibility? Have you ever gotten a mid-year bonus or unexpected windfall?