Who Stole All of Our Money?! (Hint: It Was Us)

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My husband and I have been “saving for a house.”  I put this in quotes because while that was our biggest post-wedding goal, we’ve noticed that our savings really hasn’t gone up in the past couple of months.  I’ll admit that as the one who is normally the budgeting nerd, I have done a pretty poor job of tracking our expenses lately.  I’ll go ahead and blame it on job stress (more about that at a later date), which is partially true.  I found that most days, I was so wiped out by the time I got home from work that I didn’t want to look at anything.  I wanted to buy clothes, or pretty things for our house, or go out to eat.

Then I looked at our savings account.

While we had been doing a great job of saving up, that progress had more or less come to a standstill, which was very confusing to us.  “But we don’t spend that much”, we said to ourselves, “so who has stolen all of our money?!”

Then I took a look at our joint account and my credit card account, just for the past month (6/14/14-7/14/14).  I started writing down all of the non-bill, non-grocery expenditures…and I. Was.  Floored.

No one stole our money (shocker).  WE SPENT ALL OF IT.  I am absolutely kicking myself, because I just think about how much closer we would be to our goal if we would have just stuck to our budget.  Here’s a breakdown of what we did (note: this does not include anything that my husband put on his credit card.  That’s where his “spending money” goes each month, with a portion of our income going towards paying it off.)

Alcohol

total alcohol

I would like to point out that my husband is a fantastic home brewer, and we always have 2 beers on tap at home.  The alcohol expenditures above were wine and rum–not really necessary for those trying to save for a home.  That could have easily been cut in half, if not more.

Dining Out

total dining out

Ahem.  I think we found our problem.  This doesn’t even count dining out expenses that were put on my husband’s credit card.  What’s sad is that this is much more than our grocery budget for the entire month.  Do you know how much awesome food we could cook for $417.23?  We’d eat like royalty, I tell you.

I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with dining out, but within reason.  A lot of these were going out with friends or co-workers, and a few were some very necessary trips to get frozen yogurt (IT WAS SO HOT HERE.  Really, it gets hot in Buffalo for at least a week each year).  There are definitely a few things that we could have done to cut this expense down drastically:

  1. Buy ice cream or frozen yogurt at the grocery store ($11 for one trip to the frozen yogurt place?  Really??)
  2. Stick w/ one drink per meal, or don’t order alcohol at all (it has the highest markup of any item at a restaurant!)
  3. Do a better job of planning meals ahead of time and having some meals already made and frozen for the nights when we’re too tired to cook
  4. Invite friends over for dinner, brunch, etc.–or just say ‘no’ to going out if it’ll put us over budget (which is really hard to do, I know)

Home Improvement

total home improvement

Because we rent, this isn’t an area that we normally spend a lot of money on.  We both just started working from home, though, and most of the home improvement expenses for the past month went towards setting up an office for my husband.  Ideally what we should have done is to have taken a chunk out of his normal spending money for the month to put towards at least some of this, rather than using money that we could have put into our savings.

Miscellaneous

total misc

Right away, four big expenses stand out: Brewers Festival tickets, haircut, massage, and Emeals annual subscription.  There are still a handful of other expenses, though, that helped to push this category up to almost $400.  What could we have done differently?

  1. The Brewers Festival includes a concert, and it’s something that we’re going to with my husband’s parents, so we probably would have gone to that regardless.  However, we could have saved some of each of our spending money over 2-3 months to cover the cost, instead of having it all come out of one month.
  2. Emeals is actually worth the cost IF WE USE IT.  Cooking at home = worth it (you receive a week’s worth of recipes ahead of time, and a lot of those meals share ingredients, so it saves money on groceries).
  3. I’m in between with the haircut–the $52 included the tip and I love the salon I go to (also, I am terrible about going regularly and usually only get my hair cut 2-3 times a year).  I could have waited to get a massage, though, until it fit within my spending money budget.
  4. I don’t even remember what half of the other expenses (Target, Marshalls) were.  Some of them were gifts, which, with better planning, is a more controllable cost.

So there you have it, friends.  This is why we haven’t bought a house yet.  We’ve stolen money from ourselves to do things that make us happy in the short-term, rather than focusing on the long-term goal of buying a house.  WE WILL NOT BE DEFEATED (by ourselves), though. Back to the budget we go (and that credit card is coming out of my wallet)!

Cleaning House

Goodwill Pile

Last week’s donation pile

Lately I’ve been on a cleaning kick, and not just because I don’t like how a messy house looks. Ever since my grandmother passed away last year, clutter has been on my mind. It took over a month to go through everything in her house—partially because it was such an emotional experience, but also because there was just SO MUCH STUFF. It made me realize how much I don’t want that. I don’t want things around that don’t serve a purpose or that don’t make me happy when I see them. I don’t want piles and bags of things that I “plan to do something with later,” because the odds are, if I haven’t done anything with that stuff yet, I probably won’t.

It can be overwhelming to pare down your life, though. Before I started cleaning out, I had to get clear about my personal guidelines for sorting through the clutter. Here’s what I decided to get rid of:

  • Clothes, shoes, and accessories that I either don’t wear, don’t enjoy wearing but still wear sometimes, and clothes that are just plain worn out
  • Books that I don’t have an interest in re-reading, or that I’ve read partially and don’t want to finish
  • Misc. items that aren’t being used, but I was hanging onto them for any number of reasons (i.e. they were gifts, I thought I’d use them at some point, etc.)
  • Paperwork/receipts that I don’t need to keep

There’s something about walking into a room and knowing that everything in it serves a purpose, and that anything unnecessary has been removed that is so calming to me (and a good metaphor for how to live life, no?) It allows me to focus more on the things I want to do—cooking, working on projects, writing, spending time with friends and family, or relaxing.

Want to join in on getting rid of the stuff? Here are a few tips:

  • Focus on one space at a time. If an entire room is too overwhelming, try a closet or a drawer. If you’re anything like me, once you start in one area, you’ll feel more motivated to keep going.
  • Make three piles: trash, donate, and relocate.   Don’t run from room to room relocating, or try to make several different donation piles. It’s too distracting, and you’re less likely to finish cleaning out that area. Sort things in greater detail later.
  • Make multiple donation trips. This one is key. If I have a pile of donations that sits in my house for any amount of time, I’ll start going through items and re-thinking their necessity. Multiple donation trips remove that temptation.
  • Ask for receipts. If at all possible when you donate items, make sure you get a receipt. You can use it as a write-off for taxes!

What about you? Do you have any great home organization tips?

**If you are REALLY motivated to simplify, check out Dave Bruno’s TedX talk about his 100 Things Challenge (disclaimer: I have not done this challenge, but more power to you if you try!)**

Mission (to be) Accomplished

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As I mentioned in last week’s post, I wanted to jump-start this blog by reframing the mission (what can I say? I work well with parameters.) My motivation for writing it has changed over time—when I began it, I had intended to focus only on paying off our debt. We’re still very much in the middle of that story, but over time, I’ve realized that there are other things that I enjoy writing about, and rather than starting 10 new blogs, why not capture all of it here?

So, with no further adieu, I present you with the rebel without a dime mission statement:

rebel without a dime was created to inspire and encourage those who want to get out of debt and live frugally. it is a space for sharing ways to live differently from the norm, without sacrificing happiness.

There you have it. Happy Friday!

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Photo Credit

Hitting Restart Again (and Again…and Again)

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When life gets busy, I tend to ignore some of the things I enjoy doing most.  At the beginning of the year, I set goals to help me avoid the inevitable pull of Bravo TV and a nice bottle of wine ($11.99/bottle makes it ‘nice’, right?)  These goals include the things I enjoy, that make me feel good and accomplished when I complete them, including writing blog posts, reading new books, and knitting the patchwork blanket that I started in 2013 (2012?)  The first few months of the year went well, and then…not so much.  I’d like to say that it’s because I don’t have enough time, but that’s not the case.  I have the same amount of time as everyone else, but I’m choosing to use my time in a way that isn’t necessarily in line with my personal goals.  This isn’t to say that I’m a couch potato.  I’ve achieved several of my goals in the past few years by networking, taking chances, and doing some good ol’ hard work.  That being said, when every other blog post begins with, “So I haven’t written on here in a while…,” that’s not a good sign.

Whenever I find myself getting to the point where I feel stuck, or uninspired, or lazy, I’m reminded of an individual profiled in Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.  The book makes the obvious, yet often forgotten point that we all have 168 hours in a week–plenty of time to do the things we love, the things that will help us reach our goals, and the necessities of life that we don’t love so much (dirty dishes, I’m looking at you).  The profile that always sticks in my mind is that of Theresa Daytner, a successful construction company owner and mom of six who identified her priorities and used them to plan her life–time spent working/achieving goals, time with her kids, time doing the necessities, and time re-charging.  Daytner’s most profound statement?

“Everything that I do, every minute I spend is my choice. […].  If I’m not spending it wisely, I fix it […].”

I love this.  At no point does she claim that she’s got it down.  Instead, she recognizes her very human tendency to get off target, and simply re-orients herself and her time.

I bring up the concept of prioritizing and goal-setting because it reminds me of my purpose in creating this blog in the first place.  I didn’t intend for it to just be an outlet for the times when I felt like writing (although there’s nothing wrong with that…if that’s your purpose for having a blog, then by all means, get it out, girl).  I wanted to provide support, inspiration and tips for those trying to get out of debt.  I think the mission of the blog has somewhat changed, which could explain my lack of writing, so I’m going to pull together a new mission statement to get it back on track.  I’ll share the mission statement in my next post, which I’ll write this week.  I might even do it today.  Sorry, Bravo TV and wine bottle.

 

Judge Not, O Indebted One

behavior quote

I have a confession: I judge other people’s financial behavior like nobody’s business.  If I know that money is tight, but I see you in a new dress…BAM.  Consider yourself judged.  Spent money on a vacation? I can only assume that you spent the entirety of that vacation foolishly disregarding your student loan debt. Oh, did you buy a brand new car?  I hope you enjoy living in it, because you probably just spent your mortgage payments. (How do I have any friends?)

Like the quote above says, we judge others by their behavior, and ourselves by our intentions.  The way I see it, both are pretty dangerous habits.

Judging Others by Their Behavior 

Maybe money is tight, but you found a cute dress on clearance that brightened your day.  Maybe you do have a lot of student loan payments, but you saved up for a vacation–and found some great deals while you were planning it. Maybe you researched new cars, saved up a good down payment, and had a decent trade-in for that new car.  Even those closest to me don’t know the intricacies of my finances, and likewise, I don’t know all the details of theirs.  And yet, I still find myself judging them, often very harshly, on the small pieces that I do know.

This mindset–that the behavior of those around me reflects poor intentions, or selfishness, or an inability to face reality–can only hurt my relationships.  It puts me in the unearned position of feeling superior to friends and family, when I should be approaching them from a position of love and support.

Judging Ourselves by Our Intentions

Do I always make the best financial decisions?  Absolutely not.  Do I make excuses for myself? Sure do.  Case and point:

We’ve spent almost two hundred dollars on takeout over the past couple of months. 

But we’ve been busy and too exhausted to plan meals and cook.

I went to New Orleans for work and exceeded my monthly “fun money” budget.

But the colors in the Pearl Jam print are beautiful…and it’s something that we’ll display in our home…and when am I going to go to New Orleans again?

 I purchased (yet another) black dress for the trip. 

But what would people think if I wore the same dresses I’ve already worn to other events?

Why do I feel that it is okay to hold others to different, much higher standards than those to which I hold myself?

Because I remember my intentions, and excuse my behavior. 

What should I do when I see someone making financial decisions that I don’t feel are appropriate?

  1. Be slow to judge–unless it has been explicitly explained to me (i.e. “Katie, I have $5 in my bank account, but I felt like making a foolish financial decision, so I went out and bought these shoes”), I need to remember that I don’t know why the decision was made.  Even if it was explicitly explained to me, back off! I don’t need to agree, but I need to respect that it wasn’t my decision to make.
  2. Ask myself–and honestly answer–what would I do in their position?  Or rather, what have I already done in their position?  I have certainly bought something small to brighten my day, even when it didn’t fit in my budget, and I distinctly remember purchasing a plane ticket to London when my credit card was nearly maxed out.  It happens.
  3. Offer support and guidance, if it will be welcomed. Nobody likes a know-it-all, but as someone who has worked to get out of debt, I do have something to bring to the table.  If nothing else, sometimes it just helps to have someone to talk to when you’re in a financial pickle.
  4. Redirect that energy towards my own debt.  There’s enough there to keep me busy for a few more years, eh?

What about you?  How do you interact with friends and family who make financial decisions that you don’t agree with?

Photo Credit

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Related Post:

Spending Excuses: My Big 3

2013: A {Monetary} Year in Review

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2013 was a big year for us.  We started the year off by creating our budget and setting some financial goals.  Our #1 goal was to pay for our wedding in cash, with no assistance.  And guess what?

We did it!

We created a separate wedding budget, accounted for EVERYTHING we could possibly think of, and paid for our wedding completely out of pocket (about $13,000 when all was said and done. Whoever said a wedding had to cost $30,000 is a goober.  Check out this post to see how we did it!  I’ll write an update about how it turned out in a future post, but suffice it to say–best. night. ever.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

While creating our goals and budget for the 2013, we knew that we didn’t want to throw everything we had at the wedding.  That’s where the budget comes in handy–by identifying our monthly income vs. expenses, we were able to reasonably identify how much was left over for debt reduction.  When all was said and done, we reduced our debt by about 23%.  We still have a lot left to pay off, but WOW…is this a great feeling.  We also have our $1,000 emergency fund and thanks to our wonderfully generous friends and family, we were able to recoup what we spent on the wedding and then some, which went right into the bank.

In review, here’s where we ended for 2013:

Paid $13,000 in cash for our wedding

Maintained our $1,000 emergency fund

Paid off 23% of our debt

Saved a large chunk of money to put towards our 2014 goals (and beyond!)

Exciting stuff, right?  You’d think we would get after it for 2014, right?  

Full disclosure: It is January 11th and we still have not revised our budget for this year.  Oops. (See, even the budget nerds trip up!)  That being said, we’re going to make it a priority ASAP, because we have some HUGE goals coming up, including:

  • Going on our honeymoon- and paying for it in cash
  • Buying our first home
  • Making some mini-budget nerds

…so let’s get budgeting!  Ready?  Break!

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Need help creating your budget?  Here are some great resources:

Dave Ramsey’s Budgeting Forms

Be Organized- Our New Budget Sheet (through trial-and-error, this is the method that has worked best for me.  What can I say? I’m a pen-to-paper type of gal).

Kiplinger’s Household Budget Worksheet

 

 

 

What Will You Inherit?

Grandma, Katie, and the Infamously Ugly Apron

Grandma, Baby Katie, and the Infamously Ugly Apron

My grandmother passed away on August 16th after battling a brief, unexpected illness.  I was blessed to spend much of her last three weeks at the hospital, where I brushed her hair and rubbed her feet, prayed with her, and most importantly, had the opportunity to hold her hand and tell her how much she meant in my life.  I wish I could have her back, but I will be forever grateful for that time.

My mom was granted the difficult task of serving as executor for my grandmother’s estate.  My grandparents had subscribed to the Irish Catholic method of family planning (Make babies.  Lots of them.), so there has been a small crowd to contend with—not to mention, boxing up the life of a loved one is just an impossibly emotional task.  I believe there is a special place in hell for the person who enjoys putting together estate sales.

Fortunately, I have seen many of my family members step up during this process—we’ve pulled together to clean, sort, price, and fix up the house.  We’ve gotten to share memories as we come across different items, especially anything related to Christmas (the woman loved Christmas…I’m talking 10 Rubbermaid bins full of holiday cheer).

What has struck me is our connection to stuff and the meaning that we give to it.  I now am the proud owner of the world’s ugliest apron.  Despite its appearance, it will always hold some significance because there are several pictures of my grandmother wearing it and holding me, and because one of the most important things in her life was to be in her kitchen, cooking for her family.  This is when I think that stuff can serve an important role in healing—while it doesn’t bring her back, it serves as a visual reminder of happy memories.

Unfortunately, there are some I see approaching all of this with a, “what’s in it for me?” attitude.  How sad that you have reduced her worth to money and stuff.  It’s not about that.  It’s about the times she helped you, and prayed for you, and the times that she made you dinner and took care of you when you were sick.  It’s about the times that she welcomed you and your family back into her home when you had no other options.

It is not about your inheritance.  It is not about a flat screen tv, or a grill, or a KitchenAid mixer.  It is not about jewelry, or furniture, or a car.

You know why?

Because money and stuff will never give you the satisfaction of knowing that you were loved.

Her work ethic; her love of cooking; her sense of humor; her caring, selfless attitude; and even her ability to tell and re-tell the most long-winded, but legendary stories—those are the things you should worry about inheriting.  Those are the things that made a life.