You Need It, so “Bud, Get” it!

My Dad sent me a good article to read this morning. It started my day out on a good note and told me that I am doing a lot of things right.
The article, Family Lives on $14,000 , is a good one. It talks a lot about budget and saving and doing without while being ok.

When I left my teaching after 6 years, I was earning around $36,000-38,000. That’s decent around here, but certainly not rich. Social Security and Disability figured out my wages (if I understand, it’s a percentage of the highest 5 years you earned in 30 years). It came out to roughly $1760 / month. That’s more than some, less than others. I am not complaining, just writing and stating facts. What is true is that it, certainly, is less than what I was making and I had to take insurance out of that. Medicare finally kicked in and it is much better now (in fact, the $1760 is after medicare and my Rx plan is taken out).

Whatever the final tally was, I had to change the way I was living. Let’s not say it was easy, let’s say it was drastic deathly horrendous slowly manageable.  I couldn’t do it all at once.  I took one thing and worked on it and, perhaps, started something else right after, and continued that until things looked much better.  I still do some little things to help, but here are my list of what has been pretty major:

1)  Groceries – my biggest thing was to stop impulse buying, find what worked for me, then see if I could get it just a bit cheaper.  The diabetes makes it a little more difficult, as a lot of it is more expensive, but I don’t buy a lot of the crap I used to either.

2)  Cable –  After several years of paying for but not watching cable TV, I bought a Roku box for about $40 and use it to tap into thousands of free movies.  I have, after trying several different things, started getting Amazon Prime for $79 / year.  In addition to a lot of free movies, it gives me a discount on a lot of Amazon shipping when I purchase something.

3)  Kindle – I have a Kindle soft touch (not “the” greatest thing, but it works fine for me).  I bought it on Amazon at a discount and have downloaded a lot of free books.  I do buy some, but usually the $0.99 or up to $2.99 books.  I am working on using it to access our local library (a resource I don’t use enough!).

4)  DVDs – I don’t own a Blu-Ray player, so I don’t shell out the extra money for it.  I used to buy all my DVDs, not rent them.  Since trying to declutter everything, I have found that paying $2.99 to watch a movie and, occasionally deciding to buy one later, works well for me.  I have hundreds of DVDs and haven’t watched them all, but I will, slowly now.

5)  Declutter – This simply means that I have decided to get rid of a lot of treasures crap items in my house.  This is a slow process.  I admit that I hoarded kept a lot of stuff over the years.  I was always afraid I would not have money and needed these things “just in case”.  Well, I decided that I can do without most of it.  What I can sell on Amazon I have, what I can give away to Goodwill I have (that was about 5 big boxes), and what’s left I am going through slowly.  I have someone(s) who have/are helping me to clean my house and make it beautiful livable comfortable.

6)  Car – The car has turned out to be the easiest one so far.  Since I don’t work, I drive a lot less.  This saved on insurance (gotta ask, folks) and gas.  By it’s nature, this cuts down on trips to the shop.  I keep the oil changed and fluids and all checked.  I let Jiffy Lube do this consistently every 3-4 months.  I have never had to add a quart of oil to the car, nor ever had a flat tire.  The car now has about 138,000 miles on it.  I expect 2-3 more good years out of it.  It has been paid for since about 2005.  It looks nice.  I bought a stick with nothing powered so it was cheaper and had less to break.  It’s been a good choice.

7) Budgeting Spreadsheet:

I use Excel for my checking / budget.  I created a column of “outgo” and then plotted what needed to come out each month for each item when I got my check.  Then I try hard to stick to that.  Sometimes, it’s a little borrow from one to pay another, but it works pretty well.  Notice that I add something each month to things such as “property tax” so that when it comes time, the money is already there.  The worst thing that can happen to you is to have a “surprise” yearly bill that shouldn’t have been a surprise.

House Payment
Cell Phone
Comcast
Middletown Utilities
Vectren Gas
State Farm
Amazon Deposit
Amazon Mailing
Amazon Prime
Gifts
Gas
Cleaning
Medical
Entertain
Groceries
Mowing/Snow
Property Taxes
Car
Reserve
Adjusted Savings
Reeder (Heating / AC)

.
Totals 7/22/2012
.
Bank Balance
Checking
Savings
.
I use this as my checking register.  If I am careful (I am getting better), it will closely match my checking account balance after I do the unposted checks/deposits.  I use my debit card a lot (as a credit card to avoid the $1 charge) to make it easier to balance.  It feels good to see all the time how much I have and how it is allocated to be spent.

8)  The last big thing I have to work with is “common sense”.  Some of it is easier now because my OCD is mostly gone since my stroke.  I am able to look at something and say, “No” and not get it.  It feels good to finish a month, have the new check come in and see on the spreadsheet that you had some money left.  I have a “savings” column and, each month, I put $50 in that column when the month starts.  That’s my first “dire emergency” fund.  Anytime the new check comes and that is $50 or more, I transfer it to savings.  That really feels good.

Uncle Sam gave me a refund (probably my last of any noticeable size for awhile) this year and I was able to put about 75% of it in savings and still feel good about how my excel sheet looks for March 2013.  I count that as a big success.

Just decide whether you want to run your money or let your money run you.  That’s a really good first step.

Namaste,

Scott

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