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)!

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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.