Archive for January, 2014

Fin Health

I have been reading a lot of articles as of late about how to improve personal finances,  ways people make mistakes in terms of their finances, and what steps can be taken to  better your stance in terms of taxes.  MSN has kept me on my toes and kept me intrigued  and I have begun to wonder to myself, can we turn this around? Can we as a household  turn around the poor decisions we’ve made in the past in terms of money and maybe even  better our situation? Maybe.  Maybe Not. But in the meantime I am going to do my best to right those wrongs and get us where we need to be.

So on that note, below I am going to outline two lists, the first 25-Ways to Improve Your Finances and 10-Ways to Tax-Proof Your Retirement

banner-money

25-Ways to Improve Your Finances, you can find the Article on MSN here

  1. Start Feeling Good About Money
  2. Create Your Own Money Roadmap – what are your financial goals?
  3. Avoid Unexpected Costs of Driving
  4. Recover from Financial Pitfalls
  5. Avoid Dangerous Products
  6. Cut your Spending in a Big Way
  7. Take Advantage of New Shopping Tools – like learnvest.com and sigfig.com
  8. Get Better Customer Service
  9. Bump Up Your Savings Rate
  10. Resolve to Earn More
  11. Fall In Love with Money
  12. Keep Your Financial Life Off Of Facebook
  13. But Go Ahead and Tweek Your Favorite Bank or Store
  14. Review Your Insurance Policies
  15. Prepare for Rising Insurance Rates
  16. Pay Less In Taxes
  17. Read Children’s Books with Your Kids – Specifically ones about finances and money
  18. Protect Yourself from Credit Card Fraud
  19. Rent (or trade with a friend) your next dress/suit
  20. Get the Most Out of Your Savings Account
  21. Start Something on Kickstarter
  22. Give More Gift Cards
  23. Avoid Online Ticket Scammers
  24. Stop Worrying So Much About Money
  25. Talk with Your Honey

Retirement Nest Egg

And on the flip side or rather along side of this is 10-Ways to Tax Proof Your Retirement, find the article on MSN Money here

  1. Defer or Pre-Pay Your Taxes
  2. Invest in either a 401k, a 403b, or a Federal Government Thrift Savings Plan
  3. Or Invest in a Roth 401K – These are your After-Tax Dollars Contributions
  4. Open an IRA
  5. Open a Roth IRA
  6. Make Use of Catch-Up Contributions
  7. Make Use of a Saver’s Credit
  8. Avoid Early Withdrawal Penalties
  9. Remember Required Minimum Distribution
  10. Delay 401K Withdrawals if You Are Still Working Past Retirement Age
  11. Time Your Retirement Account Withdrawals

Now I don’t have any of the above, but the advice makes good sense – investing in some form of a retirement account can help you prepare in the long-run.

Enjoy All!

Images borrowed from:
http://www.ifg.com.au
http://www.pinkpetuniapearl.com
http://www.au.pfinance.yahoo.com

frustration2

This week was particularly frustrating when I was doing the budget – why? Simple – the utility bills are  continuing to go up, mostly the electric bill as we’re having to run out heat at like 75 just to keep the  house at 68 around the damn clock because it’s too friggin’ cold out! Never mind that out heat pump  can only do but so much to convert 6 degree air outside to 68 degree air in the house – BRRRRR – we’re  seeing an electric bill upwards of $200.00 added to what we already are past due on and it’s over  $400.00.  frozen therm

 GAH tax time can’t come soon enough in my book! I sent all of our tax docs to my Dad last week and he’ll file them sometime in the next few weeks when he has time.  Then when done we can hope beyond hope that the refund comes somewhat quickly! We desperately need that money sooner rather than later!

So on that note here is the budget for the week:

 $41.74 Remaining from W/E 01/12/14  $507.39 Lara W/E 01/19/14 Salary, Pay Date 01/24
 $36.40 Amt. Spent  $210.37 Jimmy W/E 01/19/14 Salary
 $5.34 Avail. Starting  $717.76
 $5.00 Savings for X-Mas ’14  $5.34 Avail. Starting
 $5.00 Ashley Dr.  $717.76 Total Pay
 $5.00 CCA  $723.10 Avail. For Bills
 $2.06 KTC  $27.76 Money Spent Before Paying Bills
 $3.75 Kindle Charges  $695.34
 $15.59 Wal-Mart
 $36.40

And the breakdown, here’s where you will see my frustration

financial-frustration

 $695.34
 $63.44 State Farm, 01/27 Auto-Draft
 $631.90
 $84.50 Credit Accept
 $547.40
 $90.00 Brigades Boys & Girls Club
 $457.40
 $200.00 Groceries
 $257.40
 $25.00 Dinner, 01/10
 $232.40
 $25.00 Cat & Dog Food
 $207.40
 $25.00 Jimmy’s Money
 $182.40
 $30.00 Gas
 $152.40
 $7.99 Hulu.com, 1/21 Auto-Draft
 $144.41
 $30.00  GS Troop# 1327, Camporee/Jan Dues
 $114.41
 $17.94  Shipping of GS Cookies
 $96.47
 $55.00  Progress Energy
 $41.47  $41.47
8%  $3.32
 $3.32  $38.15

The two points of my major frustration lies in these two lines:

 $90.00 Brigades Boys & Girls Club

Why? Simple – I paid the $70.00 for last week, 01/20 – 01/24/14 but THEN schools were closed for a teacher workday on the 24th, Brigades was open but yet it was an additional $20.00 ($10.00 per child) for the day, so I ended up paying them $90.00 for last week – can someone please explain this to me???

And second:

 $55.00  Progress Energy

NOT having enough funds to make this payment in FULL, $183.00 to bring us somewhere close to current.  that just bugs me to no end!

You know normally I might have been whining, moaning and complaining, but then I read this article yesterday written ever so eloquently by a woman who is in a much tougher spot than I am at the moment and I finally just told myself to shut to heck up and move on.  You can find her article titled This is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense here, take a moment to read it and share your thoughts below.

Lesson Learned: While you think your financial life sucks arse, there’s always someone who’d happily trade with you!

Images borrowed from:

http://www.thesuperzilch.wordpress.com
http://www.bemanaged.com
http://www.myfox23.com

Well another week has blown right past us hasn’t it? Seems 2014 is going to fly just as quickly as 2013 did, I can’t keep up anymore I swear LOL! Anyhew, this week passed with very little hang-ups or surprises we could say, we submitted the application for a scholarship/reduced tuition for the kids’ after school program, so we’re crossing our fingers we can get one of those and keep their tuition where it is currently – that unexpected increase will cost us dearly – so keep your fingers crossed for us!

This week is panning out to be a busy one, with the kids being out of school today and the Brigades being closed we’re looking at a swap off at lunch time today for my hubby & I – not like we haven’t done this before – and then Ashley has an appt with a new psychiatrist on Wednesday for her ADHD drug management and then Friday they are out of school again – this time though thankfully the Brigades is open!

Unexpected Gift

So on that note here’s the budget for the week – the unexpected gift I mentioned was from my Aunt, the sweet lady she is! She ordered some Girl Scout cookies from my daughter for Operation Cookie Drop, read here to find out more about that – and though she didn’t tell me how much she was sending me, she sent a check for $75.00 – $25.00 for the Cookies and $50.00 for me to use as needed! WOW! With changes to the NC Income Tax laws we’re going to see a reduction of about $50.00 in our checks – yes folks that’s $100.00/wk x 4 = $400.00/mos! OUCH! So it was very nice to get that gift from her, so a huge shout out Thank-You to my Aunt & Uncle!

Operation Cookie Drop

 

 $19.18 Remaining from W/E 01/05/14  $511.74 Lara W/E 01/12/14 Salary, Pay Date 01/17
 $57.06 Amt. Spent  $239.43 Jimmy W/E 01/12/14 Salary
 $(37.88) Avail. Starting  $751.17
 $5.00 Savings for X-Mas ’14  $(37.88) Avail. Starting
 $5.31 McDonald’s  $751.17 Total Pay
 $2.37 KTC  $713.29 Avail. For Bills
 $2.50 ATM Fee  $75.00 Gift from Aunt Karen
 $3.27 PetsMart  $788.29
 $9.90 Fuzzy Peach
 $2.40 Target
 $22.47 Target
 $3.84 RedBox
 $57.06

 

And now the overall breakdown:

 $788.29
 $95.00 CFPUA
 $693.29
 $111.00 Great Lakes, 1/17 Auto-Draft
 $582.29
 $80.00 Brigades Boys & Girls Club
 $502.29
 $200.00 Groceries
 $302.29
 $25.00 Dinner, 01/10
 $277.29
 $25.00 Cat & Dog Food
 $252.29
 $25.00 Jimmy’s Money
 $227.29
 $40.00 Gas
 $187.29
 $19.99  Planet Fitness, 1/17 Auto-Draft
 $167.30
 $25.00  GS Troop #1327 for Aunt Karen
 $142.30
 $7.00  GS Troop #1327 for Cookies
 $135.30
 $84.50  Credit Accept.
 $50.80  $50.80
8%  $4.06
 $4.06  $46.74

 

We may have overdone it just a touch on the spending, but some of what was spent was from the money my Aunt sent us – I bought myself 3 tank tops on clearance at Target, $22.47 there, took the kids to Fuzzy Peach (Frozen Yogurt Place) for dessert Friday night as we have some time to kill, $9.90 and then rented (3) movies from Red Box to keep us busy on Saturday, $3.84  – and honestly those were the only expenditures outside of our norm.

That’s all from us for this week! I hope all of you have a great week!

Well after the chaos and drama that was last week’s post – which can be found here – I am happy to say that the weekend passed fairly uneventfully and we actually finished the weekend with $53.00 cash on hand – I gave $13.00 to Jimmy for his date with Ashley this week and have the remaining $40.00 in my wallet to be put into the cash box on Friday morning should it not get spent – which at this point I don’t foresee happening – so that’ll put the total in there to roughly $76.00, YEAH! That’s money to be spent for my son’s 11th Birthday celebration which is on the 3rd of February – unlike my daughter he’s opted not to have a party and is still hemming and hawing over what to do for his birthday – so yeah that’ll make for an interesting day.  May just get him some more books for his Kindle…we’ll see!

So on that note – I have restructured things slightly to allow for money to go to our three biggest payoffs each week:

1. Daycare – $70.00/week until the 1st week of February when it jumps to $100.00/week

2. CitiMortgage – $225.26/week unless we have a utility due than it’s whatever I can swing from the balance

3.  Credit Acceptance – $84.50/week until we can pay it off with our refund.

I seriously cannot WAIT until we get our tax documents coming in so I can get them off to Dad and get the taxes done…anxious much? LOL!!

So here we are – here’s this week’s budget:

 $40.20 Remaining from W/E 12/29/13  $486.52 Lara W/E 01/05/14 Salary, Pay Date 01/10
 $35.22 Amt. Spent  $255.77 Jimmy W/E 01/04/13 Salary
 $4.98 Avail. Starting  $742.29
 $5.00 Savings for Xmas ’14  $4.98 Avail. Starting
 $2.79 KTC  $742.29 Total Pay
 $9.91 McDonald’s  $747.27 Avail. For Bills
 $3.85 RedBox  $3.05 Food Lion
 $2.40 PetsMart  $744.22
 $11.27 Harris Teeter  $22.00 J-Cash
 $35.22  $722.22

 

Now I’ve decided for 2014 not to post the two separate items with the cash withdrawal and not – seemed too much to do both – so I’ll just post the breakdown and leave it at that:

 $722.22
 $116.00 AT&T
 $606.22
 $5.00 Tate & Kirlin, 01/10 Auto-Draft
 $601.22
 $70.00 Brigades Boys & Girls Club
 $531.22
 $200.00 Groceries
 $331.22
 $25.00 Dinner, 01/10
 $306.22
 $25.00 Cat & Dog Food
 $281.22
 $40.00 Gas
 $241.22
 $84.50 Credit Acceptance
 $156.72
 $125.00 Citi
 $31.72  $31.72
8%  $2.54
 $2.54  $29.18

 

You will notice (2) changes to the budget

1. I have allotted at the top as money spent what I am transferring over to savings for Christmas 2014 – no I have not calculated out exactly how much we need to put aside each week to make a certain amount of money – for now I am just doing what I can afford to spare

2. I have upped my contribution to the Merrill Account from 7% of what’s remaining to 8% – hoping to eventually get us to 10% or more! Crossing my fingers!

Well all that’s all she wrote – keeping it brief – any suggestions from my readers on how I can improve things to accommodate the additional $30.00/week coming out?

Enjoy!

Ok so I THOUGHT and this was just a Thought we were going to be semi-ok for the year, starting off I had everything outlined, the budget preliminarily done to take us until roughly tax time and BAM something somewhat major gets thrown my way – yup – more money going out the door…UGH!

So what is it?

Well I went to pick the kids up tonight and was informed by the Brigades (a Nonprofit Mind You) that the fee structure for the kids’ after-school program is changing, so now it’s a $25.00 program fee + $25.00 transportation fee, up from the $10.00 transportation fee and $25.00 program fee for a whopping $30.00/week in addition to the $70.00/week I am already paying – Yup folks that $100.00/week for after school care – while they are still the cheapest in town by FAR this is a stretch to our already overloaded budget…

So once my workout is done tonight guess what I get to do??? Yup re-structure the budget to include this additional $120.00 hit per month! FanFreakinTastic Ya’ll!!

I am majorly bummed about this and STRESSED!

piggy-bank

I recently read several articles at the beginning of the year that talked about ways to make 2014 your best year financially and I honestly thought to myself “Well there you go, a way to help guide your path to financial security”  -well I am certainly hopeful this will be the case because I cannot even begin to fathom continuing on my path of living paycheck-to-paycheck and constantly being behind the 8-Ball so to speak.

The first article I read was The 7-Habits of Highly Frugal People and the original can be found here

To Summarize the author’s points:

  1. Be Proactive – adopt the “I can” or “I will” mentality, take that first step by sharing with the people around you your goals of being financially frugal, and listen to yourself, no one knows you better than you.
  2. Begin With the End in Mind – “If you don’t visualize what you want, then you’re at risk of other people and external circumstances influencing your life” you can achieve this by defining your goals both long and short-term and then deciding how you are going to get there.
  3. Put First Things First – “What are the things you find most valuable and worthy to you?” and then recognize the effect your finances have on this and just say no to those things that will set your goals back.
  4. Think Win-Win – “See mutual benefits from all of your interactions” – this plays into the Keeping up with the Smiths mentality we sometimes adopt or when we get jealous of our peers thinking of “why do they go to so a-b-c while I am stuck always doing x-y-z” instead remember that you don’t always know the full story, for all you know they could be in debt up to their ears!  The second part of this though is to think like someone of great wealth – understand the very difference between possessions and net worth, know those things that are collecting wealth vs. those things that are just that THINGS
  5. Communication – “To effectively communicate, you need to first understand” remember that you are not the only person in your life – your decisions affect not just you, but those around you – so you need to communicate your goals and desires and in turn listen to the goals and desires of those around you
  6. Synergize – “Creative Cooperation – working as a team to find new solutions to existing problems” – do you constantly find yourself repeating the same financial mistakes? (um I am guilty of this) Then work with those close to you to find new ways of fixing the mistakes…and maybe even surround yourself with other frugal people.
  7. Sharpen the Saw – there’s four stages to this; Physically – eating better, exercising, maybe building that vegetable garden you always talked about (this will in turn save you money at the grocery store); Emotionally – interacting socially with others will help you build relationships and keep you from feeling isolated; Mentally – exercise your mind by reading and learning all you can about all things finance and/or any topic that interests you; and Spiritually – spend time with nature by taking hikes, meditation, and connecting with your inner spiritual self.

These are just some of the steps you can take to begin thinking differently about your finances.

What changes will you make in 2014 to your finances to become more financially independent?

New Year 20143

 

I hope beyond all hope everyone had a Great Holiday Season! Santa was good to you and yours, and that your New Year Celebrations were everything you hoped they would be!  We spent ours as per usual at home watching Transformers 3 and playing Skip Bo after I did my at home Zumba Workout!

With the New Year comes many thoughts flooding into my head about what I want our finances to look like for 2014, and I can honestly say I have lofty goals and that probably only 10% of them will be met, so here goes, I am posting them here for accountability purposes:

1.  Get Caught up on the Mortgage, we are currently behind once again, owing somewhere around $2,400.00 with another month being due posting 01/15/14…so this is Goal #1.  I haven’t completely figured out yet how we are going to catch up on this – for now I have built into the budget a weekly payment of $225.26 to at least cover the current month.

2.  Get Caught up and PayOff the car loan, we are currently behind once again, owing somewhere around $504.00 with another month being due posting 01/06/14…so again Goal #2 here.  And again I haven’t figured out how to catch up on this until tax time when I plan on using the tax refund to pay the back due balance and then as much as we can towards paying off the loan.  According to my math we owe something like $2,600.00 so I feel this is completely doable! Once the car is paid off we’re going to hold onto it for another year until we receive our refund in 2015 in hopes that without the car payment we can be more consistent with making our mortgage/utility payments.

3.  Get Caught Up on All Utilities! – We are once again behind on both the water and electric bills to the tune of about $400.00, so my ultimate goal here is to pay them off – I have worked again into the budget a weekly allotment to pay once utility something every week until tax time when I can zero them out – on the other side of this however is finding ways to lower said utility bills which may be semi-difficult, we’ll see!

4.  Build an Emergency Fund – Be it the monies we have left over at the end of each week, or we find a way to build with separate savings, this is a Necessity to prevent car repairs coming from our general funds – even if I have to split up what’s left in our checking account two ways every week I will find a way to do this!

5.  Start a Christmas 2014 Savings Fund – This will be for our travel and purchase of gifts for next Christmas! I so did NOT like being home alone this year – while our Christmas was nice & quiet with just the four of us, I still prefer the chaos and family time in Maryland! Call me crazy but that’s the way of it…to do this I have built into the budget each week a small amount of money to deposit into our savings account to help fund this account!

So that is the main list of 2014 Financial Goals – while I’d also love to find a way to fund a small vacation for all four of us, I just don’t see that happening right now – it just isn’t in the books.  I said something a couple of weeks ago that if anyone wanted to nominate us for one the Ellen Show “Surprises” I wouldn’t be offended – ugh I would so love some sort of miracle to come into our lives to help us out here!

So what are your 2014 Financial Goals?

Roadsigns for Financial Goals