december financial update

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you’ve heard it before, the holidays are expensive. between gifts, postage, traveling, cards, eating out, and the like, one can really break the bank.

i’ve prided myself on being over-prepared financially and mentally for the holidays months in advance, but even i failed to stick to our budget this year. i’m a little disappointing in myself, but i refuse to beat myself up about it. because we’ve been extremely blessed and we’re doing just fine.

in the midst of overspending, we ended up borrowing a small amount from our savings.

2012 financial goals:

  1. fill all of our essential dump funds as fast as possible. these dump funds include:
    • auto insurance
    • home insurance
    • auto tax
    • home tax
    • pest control
    • eye exams
    • eye glasses
  2. pay off our student loan
  3. fill all of our non-essential dump funds. these dump funds include:
    • christmas
    • clothing
    • vacation
    • birthdays
  4. save and pay cash for a second car
  5. fully fund our emergency fund (6 months of expenses)
percentage-wise, we’re 6.26% completed with our 2012 goals. 

i think i can be excited about being 6.26% ahead of schedule, so i’m going to be!

happy saving!

november financial update

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looking forward to our 2012 budget, we’ve decided to re-name our normal sinking funds category. mostly because they are not really sinking funds anymore.

as i was running the numbers for next year, and looking at our increased goals, particularly in the “sinking fund” categories like eye exams (bryan hasn’t been in a couple years) and vacation (we’ve never taken a vacation aside from visiting family), i realized something: we don’t make enough money to be able to afford all of that.

we do spend less than i make after our giving, bills and cash envelopes. and we do have some extra sources of income like bryan giving plasma and little surveys or odds and ends that i do. and sometimes we’re lucky enough to get into car accidents. but because we can’t count on plasma or those random extra earnings, we can’t count on filling all of our sinking funds little by little each month.

so we’re changing our budgeting strategy around and we’re affectionately renaming our sinking funds to dump funds.

the dump fund: where we dump as much money as possible, as quickly as possible and fill the fund for the entire year in one fell swoop.  

it’s similar to the debt snowball in many ways. the main reason i like it because it gives us momentum on our other goals. if we don’t have to save little by little each month for those inevitable expenses, we can put more money towards the goals we’re really ambitious about, like paying off our student loan before it accrues any interest.

i don’t know if it possible, but i’d love to completely cross off the first goal on our list before 2012 even starts. with that said, here’s the update for november!

2012 financial goals:

  1. fill all of our essential sinking dump funds as fast as possible. these dump funds include:
    • auto insurance
    • home insurance
    • auto tax
    • home tax
    • pest control
    • eye exams
    • eye glasses
  2. pay off our student loan
  3. fill all of our non-essential sinking dump funds. these dump funds include:
    • christmas
    • clothing
    • vacation
    • birthdays
  4. save and pay cash for a second car
  5. fully fund our emergency fund (6 months of expenses)
percentage-wise, we’re 6.97% completed with our 2012 goals. 

planning for Christmas

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i LOVE giving gifts to people at Christmas, it’s so much fun. there is something so gratifying about finding that “perfect” gift, the one you know will be loved and appreciated. being crafty as i am, i’ve handmade a lot of gifts for friends and family, but i’ve got some family members who are as into the handmade gift-that’s okay too.

whether handmade or store-bought, giving thoughtful gifts at Christmas-time is something i value greatly. i think it probably means more to me than the person receiving the gift.

the thing about giving gifts is that it can be stressful, because it costs money. and giving gifts is just ONE of the expenses that usually comes along with Christmas. we send out christmas letters with a photo card, we go out to eat a little more often around the holidays, we travel, we give more money away, and we just generally spend more money.

i’m not complaining, i love this time of year, and i love all the things that go along with it. even the spending money part. after all, it’s easy to spend money when you have money to spend! here’s how we plan for the Holidays financially:

at the beginning of 2011, we decided on a reasonable amount to spend on Christmas. we actually doubled what we tried to spend last year, because it was too hard to stay within such a small budget. then we divided that number up into monthly increments and saved a little bit each month for Christmas. instead of catching us by surprise, gift-giving is something we can do with out feeling sick about how much we’re spending. i’m so grateful for that.

i also am in the habit of Christmas shopping throughout the year. if i find a really great deal on something, or find something really unique that i know someone will love, i’ll buy it then and just pull the money out of our Christmas “envelope.”

what are your plans for Christmas spending? how early do you start putting money away? how do you save money during the Holidays?

have a great Thanksgiving tomorrow!

savings plan for 2012

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saving enough to pay our upcoming u-bill was our last financial goal to complete for 2011 and at the end of october, we were successful! all of our sinking funds have been filled and we just paid the last of our annual irregular bills. in my nerdy financial brain, 2011 might as well be over. 
that being said, it should not shock you that i’m already thinking about our 2012 financial goals. they are the biggest goals we’ve ever set for ourselves. some are fun, some are important, and some are essential. and when you add all the goals together, it’s quite a shocking dollar amount.

now, i’ve been really transparent with our saving goal for tuition. i’ve given you the exact dollar amount that we’ve saved each month. i reasoned that if you really wanted to know, you could google how expensive one year at the university of iowa is and figure out how much we needed and were saving. so i figured i’d just post the actual numbers so you could see in reality how much we’re saving for bryan’s tuition.

but my financial updates are going to look a little different in 2012. the main reason being that you can’t google how much we’ve decided to save for a vacation next year, or how much a fully-fund emergency fund is for us. we’ve decided not to make these dollar amounts public, because there really is no need to.

now that that’s out of the way, here’s what we have planned for 2012 (in order of importance):

  1. fill all of our essential sinking funds as fast as possible. these sinking funds include:
    • auto insurance
    • home insurance
    • auto tax
    • home tax
    • pest control
    • eye exams
    • eye glasses
  2. pay off our student loan
  3. fill all of our non-essential sinking funds. these sinking funds include:
    • christmas
    • clothing
    • vacation
    • birthdays
  4. save and pay cash for a second car
  5. fully fund our emergency fund (6 months of expenses)
honestly, looking at the bottom line, to save all of this in one year is impossible. but setting big goals seems to be good motivation for us and public (blog) accountability is an even better motivator for me. AND bryan will no longer be a student after may! not only will we not have to pay tuition, but he’ll actually be working! woohoo! 
because we have already completed our goals for 2011, we’re starting on our goals for 2012 now. i’ll blog about our progress at the end of november in lieu of the monthly tuition updates. 
happy saving! 

aftermath of the car accident

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i’ve mentioned that i got in a car accident in early october. i was on my way to ames to have some sister/mother bonding time. i was so excited about spending an afternoon shopping with my sister and going out to dinner with my mom. i left iowa city at 11:30am and was planning on getting to ames by 1:30pm.

but i didn’t get to ames until close to 3pm because i hit someone on the interstate.

why did i hit a car? because the car suddenly crossed three lanes of traffic into my lane, where i braked, swerved into the ditch and swerved back into my lane which resulted in the hit of her car and the ditching of my car.

it was not fun or amusing. and i was sorely disappointed at the time this was taking away from my family. and at the same time, this was the best car accident to get into. ever.

first of all, myself and my car could have been much, much worse. it could have flipped, i could have been stuck inside, i could have been injured. lots of things. as it were, i wasn’t even sore the next day and my car was still completely drivable. my car incurred a sizable dent, but nothing else seems to be wrong with it.

second of all, the other driver was not hurt either.

third of all, other cars could have easily been involved. it was a crowded interstate but we were the only two cars involved in the accident.

fourth of all, we got a bunch of money for the damages! well, it was a bunch of money considering that we decided to leave the dent in the car and keep the cash.

bryan and i have been talking a lot about how to make the most of this unexpected money in the last week.

what would you do if you received a totally unexpected amount of money? 

october tuition update

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to quote myself: “we still need to save at least $506.74 this semester. i’m not super confident that october will be a good month…


we saved $520.23 in october! i’m not really sure how that happened…but it totally did!
God is awesome.

total tuition for 2011-2012 school year: $9,654.00
total tuition paid so far: $2,090.00
savings at the end of october: $2,104.49 $2,090.00*
difference: $5,474.00 (which is the exact amount that our loan is covering)
percentage saved: 43.3%
percentage left to save: 56.7%

here’s how october went down:

right at the beginning of october we got our dryer fixed. this made me want to puke. it cost $140 dollars just for the guy to walk in the door. one new heat lamp later, and we just paid $220 to fix our dryer. gross.

three days later, i got in a car accident. long story short, i was on the highway and the other driver crossed into my lane without seeing me. i braked but had to swerve into the ditch and ended up popping back out of the ditch, hitting her, and spinning back into the ditch. both the other driver and i were perfectly fine, but our cars both gained sizable dents. unfortunately, that was five weeks ago now and i still haven’t heard what the consensus is regarding the fault.

but the month started getting better after those two events.

my amazing dad decided he wanted to pay for our dryer, so he left us money on our fridge after they stayed with us for the weekend of my brothers wedding. it made me cry-what a huge blessing!

bryan was finally approved to give plasma again. he wasn’t able to give most of august and september.

our car insurance went down. since we have a sinking fund for our car insurance, we got to put the extra that we had already saved up into our tuition fund.

my eyesight didn’t change enough to warrant a change in prescription! not only is this the first time i’ve ever gone to eye doctor without feeling like my eyes are dying, it also means i only had to pay for my eye appointment and not new glasses! we also had a sinking fund for my eyes, so we got to put the extra towards our tuition fund as well.

i was honestly getting nervous about not having enough to pay our u-bill for next semester (i’m assuming we’ll receive the bill sometime in november). but i’m so glad that we intentionally didn’t take out more loans than we thought we needed-God has provided the rest with plenty of time to spare!

*i’ll post soon on why we’re only keeping exactly what we need ($2,090.00) in our tuition fund account

september tuition update

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did i tell you all that bryan’s debit card information got stolen? oh yeah, that happened. catching the four $70 dollar transactions that went through from florida might just be the only plus about obsessively checking my bank account-even on a saturday. we cancelled our debit cards, got the fraudulent transactions credited back to us [over $400 dollars!] and started discussing if it was time to switch to a local bank.

we’ve been using our bank back in ames for the past year. it’s been working out well, the only real inconvenience being that we have to mail in our deposits. but the debit card fraud pushed us over the edge and we decided it was time to turn over the last piece of ames we were holding on to. but, really, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as that last sentence made it sound.

the good news is that the bank we switched to actually offers us the same perks checking account, which is why we stayed with our ames bank so long.

anyway, though i’ve been trying to switch everything over, our budget sheets are in mild disarray, but the following update is as accurate as always. and that was a long of saying that i really have nothing revolutionary to say this month. here’s the update!

total tuition for 2011-2012 school year: $9,654.00
total tuition paid so far: $2,090.00
savings at the end of september: $1,583.26
difference: $5,980.74
percentage saved: 38.05%
percentage left to save: 61.95%

we still need to save at least $506.74 this semester. i’m not super confident that october will be a good month, because we’re getting our dryer fixed and the estimated cost of that is $140. but you can’t exactly line-dry your clothes when it’s snowing. so it’s a good thing. happy saving!