Friday, April 1, 2011

More serious matters

Usually I love April Fool's jokes.  But you're not going to find any here.  I've been budgeting for the past 18hours and it just kind of kicks all the jokes out of me.

Not that I'm complaining.  I've actually always liked budgeting, I'm just not good at it.

Well, here's to getting better!

Mint.com is awesomeness x20.  If you aren't using it, you should.

Here's how it works.  You add all your bank/credit accounts (even student loans, credit scores, car value) to this site (it is totally legit, safe, and free).  Then the site sorts everything out for you.  I had to play around with it for a few hours, but now that I have all our spending (starting in December) categorized I am loving it.  There's a little pie graph that shows me all my trends.

As I thought, it cost us $6,000 to move (that includes terminating lease fees, Allied moving company, Ben's work fees, and the gas fuel).  We expected moving would be a huge expense.  And we were willing and ready to deal with it.  But I think seeing the actual number documented and then finding out (just a month after our move) that Ben's job was actually going to pay him $4,000 less a year and never offer any opportunity for growth (no bonuses, no step promotions or pay increase) it all just made things a little depressing.  And maybe that can help some naysayers understand why we think Wisconsin's Governor (and most the Republican party) are every four letter word you can (but shouldn't) imagine.

(This post seems to be one that is requiring lots of parenths).

Aside from the moving expenses, our pie shows we spend 25% on rent.  That's nice.  HUGE change from DC. Eight-percent of our spending goes to food. The next category is one I have to nip in the butt: 7% to shopping. Our last category in the top 5 was kind of a "good" surprise. Health and Fitness is costing us 5% of our spending (this category includes things like our Y membership, Doctor visits, pharmacy costs, and the insurance coverage we had to pay out of pocket while between jobs).

Notice, I say spending, not income.  The last four months haven't looked so good for income when you figure in maternity leave and lack of revenue between jobs.  Sigh.

Overall though, I really LOVE this budgeting tool.  I was able to see what I'm spending and then try to organize it into a realistic budget.  Instead of just guessing what might be realistic to spend.  I also set up a "gift" budget, where we can save $50 a month and then have money for our birthday and holiday presents.  I set up an "air travel" budget so I can save about $40 a month and then go to Utah after the money has been saved, instead of slapping it on the credit card and having faith it would be paid off in the near future (which is kind of what we have been doing).  I did this same thing for things like car insurance and registration.  And then I took all the money left over and created a "buy a home" goal.  I thought we'd be able to save $400 a month, but really we can save $500.  What a joy!  Another joy on this "home owner" front was that the site sent me to some great articles that actually state renting (instead of buying) has been the right choice for Ben and I.  I feel like here in America there is such a huge push to buy, but if you are moving every two or three years and wanting/needing to do something else with your money renting actually is the more fiscally responsible option.  It was such a relief to see a financial expert explain to me in simple terms why that is so (tax costs, repairs, upgrades, interest, all this on top of a monthly mortgage are all "covered" in my rent).      

Anyway, you may wonder why I'm sharing so much personal info.  Wasn't there a time it was frowned upon to ask how much money people made?  Eh, I always told my students exactly what I made, after I reminded them how rude it was to ask.  I just figure if talking about my budget helps others understand financial tools available to them, I don't mind opening up.

Oh wait, but nobody asked for my opinion.

Hum, guess I'm the type of person who just offers it readily.  Who knew? :) 

2 comments:

Scott and Claudia said...

What a delightful child you are!!!
Love, Pa

smalltowngirl said...

Steve and I have just been talking about doing a budget. Thanks for the site! If you don't manage your money, it manages you.

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