A Factory Working, College Grad Getting Out of Debt

Posts tagged “saving

Approaching a Milestone with a Possible Budget

Well, my man and I are approaching our two year anniversary on Sunday and it’s pretty clear the bond isn’t going to break.  We’re stuck with each other, and love it.  With kids today getting married young and even my own peers are starting to say the “I Do’s” to each other (I think I know of three weddings just this month of fellow compatriots?) people are wondering: When are we going to tie the knot?

And the answer to that is: not anytime soon.   My guy is still in college and will be graduating this May.  When we first talked about futurey things, we definitely agreed that both of us would be graduated before the question was ever asked.  And after he graduates?  Well, I want to work on some of this debt first.  I’m doing a pretty smashing job so far in my opinion honestly, and I’d like to see it continue that way for some time to come.

We did set out a budget for the nuptials whenever they occur however.  He and I are very picky, and aren’t into following all the shenanigans of wedding necessities that for some reason the industry insists one must have to have a “successful wedding.”  To be honest, if he and I went to a Justice of the Peace, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.  Don’t get me wrong, looking at wedding things is certainly a past time of mine, but there is so much of the frill and the tulle that I can live without thank you very much.  Instead, I’d rather do things my way.  And that includes a budget.

A couple of months back when I started this blog, my guy and I sat down and truly discussed this possible wedding budget and if it were doable or not.  We think it certainly is, and are willing to cut the frill and satin out to get there.  What’s the magical number you might ask?  Well… $6000 for the wedding.  $4000 or less on the honeymoon (the part where we can honestly want to splurge).

I know there are so many people out there who want all that extra to make their very special day very special, and I don’t mind it.  It’s your day.  Do what makes you happy.   And for me, having a down payment on some property and possible blueprints for a home are my main concern truth be told.  So that means we’ll be living with our parents for a little while longer as I work down the debt and he works on saving and we both work on finding decent careers.

The Breakdown:

Photographer: $2000  This is the part where I refuse to budge on quality. I want photos of my day clear and artistic with a whimsical feel in spots and serious and gorgeous in others.  Finding that special photographer means being willing to pay for it.

Food: $325  We’re definitely going cheap, and he and I are already thinking something really simple and fun for this.

Cake: $150 Why do you need layers to a cake?  Seriously… a sheet cake does the trick in feeding all those hungry mouths.  A simple two tier is all you need for the pictures and the 1 year anniversary luck.

Venue/Preacher: $300  We already know a few places that we can reserve for under $100 total.  We’re stoked and ready.

Tuxes: $500  Rentals of course, but my guy also insists on helping his groomsmen and my man of honor (yes? you read that right… what of it?) with supplementing their budgets so that they’re not breaking the bank either.  It’s expensive to be a part of your best friend’s wedding!

Dress: $550  My guy scribbled this one down and I couldn’t help but be awed and love him more.  I was seriously considering writing down $250-300 for this and he just upped the game so I could have an awesome dress.  Love you so much for being so great!

Paper: $120  Save the Dates, Invitations, Thank You Notes…. SOOOO EASY TO ACCOMPLISH THIS I TELL YOU!

Decorations: $200  It’s going to get Crafty in that house of mine whenever the wedding is set.  Of course that will probably be years from now, but still.  DIY all the way.

Bouquet/Boutonnieres: $100  DIY can work here too ladies and gents, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing 😉

Wedding Rings: $1000  This is the other big spender.  My guy and I like expensive metal.  And we’re certainly wanting to splurge a bit on the most symbolic and memorable part of the ceremony.  I never said I had a cheap sense of taste my friends.

What number did you give for your wedding budget?  Did you do it for less?  Decide that certain things were more necessary than others?  Let me know!  I might have forgot something.

Count those raindrops!

DecMeadow.

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The A’s that Keep You Broke & How to Beat Them

Hello again my readers!  I would like to introduce you to a new monthly post that I want to share with you.  I would like to call it “The ABC’s that Keep You Broke and How to Beat Them.”  Every month I’ll share five little things that can cause you lose to money and some possible solutions that can be implemented to avoid them.

I must tell you now that my disclaimer on this little series will have both educational benefit and comedic relief.  Some of the items I choose will honestly be all in good fun.

Hope you enjoy!

Added fees –  Be careful of these little babies.  I hear they pack a punch that isn’t expected.  Credit cards like to up-sell and add these fees through a ruse of your protection.  Payment protection, identity theft protection services, etc… Credit cards love to make you think that they are only thinking of you.   Credit card companies are not the only culprit however.  Your local bank could be trying to hide some extra fees that even you haven’t noticed.  Remember that little Bank of America fee that caused their customers to run in mass exodus?  Yeah.. watch out for those.  Shop around for a bank you can trust.  Credit unions can also be more beneficial and transparent as well.

Alcohol – Don’t drink and drive!  Better yet, don’t drink at all!  Ha… while that might actually make you a little richer in the pocket, an easier way to save is to buy your alcohol from the liquor stores or even grocery stores.  These type of stores are able to purchase a great amount of alcohol in bulk and thus get a lower price for it…which then passes as a cheaper price to you.  Stay away from the bars and restaurants.  Although you might like having a drink when you go out to socialize or eat, you really are paying for the convenience.  A bottled beer or wine cooler could cost you approximately $1 or so a bottle from a six pack whereas while you’re eating out it could be double, triple, even quadruple the amount of buying the bulk and taking it home.

Apple Products – Buy Samsung.  Well honestly, I’m a huge fan of the iPod, I don’t find that I need a new one every time they come out with a new generation.  Just for this purpose alone I refuse to buy the iPhone and any of its incarnations.  Plus, I like to look around for alternatives.  I don’t always need a new phone or electronic device.  Yes, they are certainly pretty, but do I need it?  Certainly not.

Application fees – For all you college kids out there, or perhaps you have someone nearing the college age, take note.  Those college applications do not come free.  Colleges and universities make thousands of dollars a year just through application fees.  A local college’s application fee could range from $30 to $50 a piece.  If you’re trying to get into some of those more expensive Ivy League colleges and universities… well, be ready to cough up a pretty penny.  However, colleges and universities do offer to waive these fees.  In Indiana, my home state, if you end up achieving as a 21st century scholar, your public university application fees are waived for example.

ATM fees – This is something that you definitely want to make sure that you’re keeping a close watch.  Banks have additional atm fees now.  Perhaps you didn’t use your card enough times in a month as a debit card or as credit… so that’s a fee.  If you go to another bank’s ATM, that’s a fee.  If you draw too many times in a month, that’s a fee.
Overall, be careful and read the fine print.

Count those raindrops!

DecMeadow.


How to Make an Expense Sheet

Normally, the middle of the month will be dedicated to showing the progress I have made on my goals for the month.  However, because I am bound and determined to make a budget for myself, there’s a couple of key steps that I have to do first.  You might all be thinking it’s pretty simple to make a budget right?  You take the expenses and the income, and you pray that the income turns out be more than the expenses right?  Wrong.

In order to figure out a budget, I needed to see where exactly I was spending money and on what.  Perhaps if I know where my money is going, I will then know where to make cuts when I’m making my November budget.  So then the question was… how do I get started?

It’s called Excel 2010 and it is becoming my newest and best friend.

After using Google and Youtube to get more familiar with how to work Excel (until now I’ve only dabbled in it for random college courses), I started organizing my columns and then my receipts.  So before I go into how I’m using Excel’s formulas, here’s a snapshot of my own doctored Expense sheet.

As you can see, I have numbered down 1-31 for the days of the month.  I highlighted the Car Loan, Student Loans, and Credit Cards yellow because they are the most pressing things of the upcoming budget.  The blue are my necessities, and the really light orange-pink (salmon for you fellow artists out there), they are my random and fun expenses.  To the right, I once again repeated the titles of the columns.  This is because when I start using the Excel =SUM(….) formula, the total expenses will add up as I insert the receipts on a daily basis.

Okay, now here is where I use the =SUM(…) function.  Click on the box next to your first category, in this case it will be my Car Loan category on the right hand side.  Insert =Sum( and it will look like this:

At this point, Excel should be prompting you to finish you =SUM(..) formula.  Highlight the column that says Car loan and scroll down until you have highlighted every box in that column down to 31 (being the last day of the month).  When you have finished, the =SUM(…) formula will disappear and the total sum of the expenses in that column will show in that box.  Repeat for the rest of the columns.

If you would like the simple expense sheet that I have created for your own uses, access it here:  Monthly Expense Sheet

Now here’s the simple part: insert your receipts and expenses in the appropriate columns on the appropriate days.  If you need to add a comment to remember what that particular expense was, well, right click on the box and click add comment.  Add what you need and go onto the next receipt.

Don’t forget your income.  I have a separate column in my own expense sheet for that tracking.  The Total Expense and Total Income boxes will total on their own so that you can compare at the end of the month.

I’m not going to show you all the gory details of my personal expense sheet, as some of the comments I made to myself are personal, but I can give you a quick snapshot.

I hoped this helped for a few of you.  If you need a more detailed, step by step process, let me know in the comments!

Do you use a program or device to help you track your expenses?  Do you go old school?  Share your experiences, and don’t forget to follow this blog.

Count those raindrops!

DecMeadow.


Losing Weight on a Budget

Even though I am currently working on getting a budget together by collecting my expenditures and such this month, that does not mean that my ideas and implementation of such should be suspended.  And since I have restarted my healthy weight loss regimen with the first day of this month, it has already become an issue.

A lot of people use weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers or Nurtrisystem that can cost hundreds of dollars a year.  More people spend money on healthy and organic foods but lose a lot of that money in waste every week.  It’s a budget maker’s nightmare truth be told.

I love the idea of Weight Watchers.  Go figure right?  The program that helps you stay motivated by having encouragement from others who are in the same situation would be the program I have the most interest.  Why do you think I created a budget; money saving blog???  The only bad thing is it costs a lot of money.  And any money at this point guys is a lot of money in my world.  It’s overwhelming having all of this debt that I don’t want in any way to keep piling on top.  So I found the perfect solution: My Fitness Pal.

It’s the free version of Weight Watchers and you have peers online keeping you motivated and on task.  Lots of encouragement, lots of fun, and lots of inspiration all over that website and its forums. I have used this program over the course of this year and fell off it because I had no one with me working on it.  However, when I was on it last, I lost 8 pounds, and the lifestyle of watching my overall daily intake has helped me stay at that weight for the past month without really trying. Doesn’t mean I haven’t cheated, but I have done so much better at maintaining now.

I really want to try it again.  I feel it’s just the best time to start making some very positive changes in my life, and why not do this while coinciding with a promotion, a fresh college graduation, and a lifestyle choice on saving money. Now that my boyfriend and I are both heavily committed to it, we have each other to encourage each other every day (or nag, whichever you prefer).

Here’s my next problem:  a lot of people get a gym membership when they want to lose weight.  As any money is more money than I am willing to spend, going to the gym is out of the question.  I will simply rely on working out on my terms.  True, that will probably mean a lot more sit-ups and push-ups, but I can handle that.  My mother also has a stationary bike, and my boyfriend and I like to take long walks when the weather is decent.  I might even get back to borrowing the family Wii and working out on Wii Fit when the weather starts to turn and I can’t go outside as much as I would like to be active.  Using the potential tools that I already have is the best way of keeping in budget and not accruing any unnecessary expenditures.

The last hurdle that I have to clear is how am I going to save money on the healthy foods like fresh produce and organic items that are usually more expensive than the heavily saturated products out there?  Truly, that is the ultimate reason why so many at the lower pay brackets are fighting obesity… the fatty, bad for you foods are just cheaper.  The other dilemma to this hurdle is that if I go grocery shopping only once a week, I run the risk of losing so much money in potential food waste.  I don’t want to do that.  It seems the only solution would to buy only what I want and need for two-three days worth of food.  Sure that might mean that I have to go grocery shopping a couple of times a week, but honestly, that’s not really going to hurt my gas budget because I can easily run to the grocery store when I am on my way home from work most days.  Not only will this save me money, but I will control the potential food waste and my calorie intake at the same time.

To sum it all up, my goals are simple for losing weight:

  • Use MyFitnessPal.com to count calories and track daily exercise
  • Use my mother’s exercise bike, the family Wii, and just plain hard exercise like push-ups and sit-ups to save money from a gym.
  • Save money by preventing potential food waste by only buying the amount of food that I will be eating every couple of days.

Are you trying to lose weight and save money at the same time?  Any tips?  What is your experience on this issue?

Count those raindrops!

DecMeadow.


Determining a Monthly Budget

I am sure that every one has heard this before:

“You’ve got to make a budget.”

Of course you can save money and work on your savings and emergency fund without one, but in order to be more precise and consistent on this blog, I’m going to make one.   My reasoning is pretty simple:  I need to know what I spend and make in a month in order to determine what I can do to save an emergency fund, and slim down my bills.  It also will help me give a visual of where some unnecessary spending is occurring and thus I can kind of work on controlling those unneeded expenditures.

How am I going to do this?  Simple again.  I am going to keep every receipt this month, keep a record of all of my expenditures on how much and from where, and also keep a record of my paychecks I get in the month of October for a comparison.  At the end of the month, I will post the overall results of my quest.  With this, I can then make the budget for November and perhaps know where I have to shave some fat in order to prepare for my crazy bill month of December.

A little later this month, I will be running a breakdown of how much I pay on my bills and such.  I’m figuring I will do this every month the day I sit down and work on my bills so that you can see a little bit of progress.  However, once I have my budget, I will from here on be posting a monthly budget goal, a mid-month progress report, bill pay breakdown, and finally an achievement report at the end of each month.  The more I post about this budget, the better I think I will be at sticking to it.  Plus, by doing a mid-month report, I will have half of my work already finished instead of having to sit for hours on end trying to figure out if I stayed in budget or not.

Wish me luck!

Count those raindrops!

DecMeadow.


The Car

The biggest goal of my entire debt plan is to get the car paid.  It’s the biggest bill in my budget every month, so if I can get this out of the way, the rest of that money can go to my college loans or even to my credit cards later.  A little over $300 a month going to those two bill categories?  Can you see how those raindrops could become the river?  Yeah, pretty sweet right?

Okay, so here’s the kicker.  In order to get my car (a Dodge Stratus RT), I took out a 6 year loan.  Yes, I know… six year loans are not the best thing in the world when it comes to car loans.  However, I’m making it work.  I got the loan in March 2009, and my first payment was April 2009, and the starting balance was approximately $16k and some change.  The car loan total as of September 6th is $4,564.49.  Not bad right?  So you’re probably wondering how did I get all almost three-fourths of the loan paid off in almost 3 years right?

It’s pretty simple.  The monthly payment is $250.51, and I put an additional $50.49 on the principle every month since I purchased the car.  It’s killed the principle and the building interest of 6.5% at a considerable rate.

So what is possible in the future?  Well, I’ve calculated according to this loan calculator and it will take only 16 more months to pay off the car.  So according to my calculations, my last payment will be January 2014.   That’s one year and 3 months ahead of my loan.  How awesome is that?!

So, with that kind of motivation, should I consider some more money towards the bill to decrease the months in which I have to make a payment?  Why not right?  I can spare $20 a month. So, if I increased that payment just by an additional $20 a month, according to the calculator, it would be 15 payments… just one month less.  Boo.

Although getting the payment out of the way is probably something that those like Dave Ramsey would suggest, I just can’t go with it.  It’s only a one month difference, and honestly.. I can do more with the $20 to a different bill than the car payment.  So, looks like I’m staying with my current plan.

Do you have a car payment?  Do you pay minimum or put a little extra towards the principle?

Count those raindrops!

Decmeadow


Debts

Whew!  Sorry it took so long guys, I did not realize how long it would take for me to get all of these financials put together.  So now that I finally been able to collect everything and sit down and put it together, let’s continue shall we?

Now that I have a goal, it’s time to show the true numbers.   The time has come for the schematics of the process, and the dirty details of everything that has to be taken care of while I am also saving for my rainy day fund.

I am a recent full-time college student graduate.  I have student loans and expenses that came from being a student on a daily basis.  So we have to first look at my debts in order to start taking care of my dreams.

Car loan: $4,565.

This is my biggest part of my budget right now.  Considering that my car loan used to be $16k two and a half years ago, I am very proud of myself on being able to knock this down so quickly.  Instead of just paying the $250.91 monthly pay, I instead pay $301 every month and put the rest on principle.  You will be amazed at how much this takes care so quickly!  It takes care of both interest and pays a little more than needed to take the car down to decrease future interest on the loan.

If money starts heading my way, I would like to increase the payment an extra $20 a month to $321 if possible.  But it’s not necessary.

Credit cards: $8,000.

Being a college student on a limited income, this has been a necessary evil to survive on weeks and months when most of my paychecks have been going towards car insurance and car payments.  I pay about $250 a month on payments, but that is over the minimum requirement.  I try to pay as much as possible off it I can every month to help make my living situation a little more doable.

My goal is to upgrade this to $300 a month and to rely on cash only from now.  So far, I have been doing very well with the cash only rule.

My student loans: about $20,000.

My goal is to pay $75 on this every two months while I am still in college to get a head start on the payments.  I know this seems silly, but currently my loans are only gaining a very small amount of interest, and this $75 will start making head way.  Besides, the less debt that my boyfriend and I have equals more money for us later down the road to put towards our wedding, a house, and the furnishings.

Total Debt: approximately $33k.

Wow.  That’s not even breaking things down further.  That can happen later in other posts, because just looking at this now… Looking at what I have to take care of while doing my emergency fund is overwhelming.  Things look scary at the moment.  Very scary.  Is this really possible to do?

Count those raindrops!

DecMeadow.