Monday, September 08, 2014

Money Matters

I used to keep track of our spending on tediously hand-lettered sheets of graph paper, which accumulated into a dusty pile, stored under my dresser.  It was a lot of work, but I derived great satisfaction in plotting each month's income and expenditures on a master graph.

Then I entered the workforce full time, and tracking our spending became less of a priority.  I had a general idea of what we could "afford" and our expenses always seemed to fall into that range, so I didn't worry about it, and the stack of graph papers became increasingly dusty and were eventually thrown away.

Over the past several months, I've become dissatisfied with the direction in which my life is headed.  Am I really going to slave away in a cube, in exchange for financial stability, but have nothing to show for it at the end of my life except a giant pile of wine corks and a "Thanks for all your years of service" certificate?  I realized that I didn't even know what our monthly living expenses really were, so couldn't effectively set a savings goal.

Since the end of June, I've been tracking our spending (on spreadsheets this time, not graph paper) and I finally have a grasp of what we spend for variable expenses like food, clothes, household supplies, the dogs, etc.  (A lot.)  Now that I know what we spend, I can get a better handle on where we can cut back--food for sure, and how to save more.

We are always poor in September because of tuition bills and other school-related expenses, and we have some major maintenence expenses looming over us right now.  Remember when my kitchen sink pipe burst on Easter Sunday and leaked water all over the breaker box?  Yeah, me neither, until our A/C kept tripping the breaker and we called an electrician who discovered that the breakers have been quietly corroding ever since.  We need to replace the entire breaker box. We also need an arborist to come over and assess the walnut tree that looms so menacingly over the house and which dropped a massive limb on our roof during the derecho two years ago.  If it's healthy, it will need some serious pruning, and if it's not, the whole tree will need to come down.

Then there's the problem of identifying a goal.  It's much easier to stick to a savings plan if you have a concrete goal.  I would like to do some serious traveling, but that is a bit vague.  Stay tuned, as there will probably be more frugal lifestyle-related posts coming as I try to sort through this.

9 comments:

  1. Trees are very inconvenient for one's budget. So are children. My goal is to avoid living in a cardboard box under a collapsing bridge.

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  2. We need to get back to a monthly budget, as we have gotten woefully off track in the past five or six years.

    When we did have a strict budget, one of our categories was for travel, so we always knew how much money we had for that pursuit.

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  3. Budgeting constantly seems to move aside for living. And really, you can't have one without the other, right? I laughed about having "nothing to show for it at the end of my life except a giant pile of wine corks and a 'Thanks for all your years of service' certificate." I really did. But there is a lot of good stuff in between, huh? A lot of life to live. Anyway, you got me thinking today about choices. Good stuff here! XO

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  4. We were really good about keeping a budget when we were poorer. As our salaries went up, and we found we had enough to be a little less careful, we stopped being so good about budgeting. We've been using Quicken for many years now, so I can see where our money goes, but that hasn't made it a lot easier to live within a budget. Groceries! I swear, I can't believe how much it costs to eat decent food these days.

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    1. Food is exceptionally expensive in Charlottesville. I think prices are deliberately inflated because so many rich people live here. I think of it as an affluence tax and it infuriates me. Sometimes I do my grocery shopping on the other side of the mountain, to get away from our ridiculous prices.

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  5. Oh, I feel glad knowing I'm not the only fuddy-duddy. I use looseleaf paper and write down EVERY SINGLE expense. Even itunes purchases. It keeps me in line. For me August is when it gets ugly, the darn back to school stuff every year. I'll be curious to read how you slim the spending.

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    1. Oy! I completely forgot about itunes! Although for us, that amounts to maybe $2/month.

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  6. This is awful to admit, but I think the last time we sat down and did an actual budget was when I wanted to give up working and just stay home with a then very young Edie. This is not to say we have no idea where our money goes - we do. With my 'freelancing my way through life', my income is all over the place, it can be very feast or famine, so that tends to be earmarked as our 'fun' money. Some months are far more fun than others.

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  7. I no longer keep track of our own money. I am too busy tracking my aunt's expenses. My mother also thinks I manage her money, but she actually does fine at it all on her own.

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