Sunday, December 30, 2007

January Budget & December Net Worth +$6,097

December Net Worth:

It didn't feel like it at times with some frivolous spending this past month, but financially it was a great month. We were able to take care of the Discover card balance and still come out of the month with cash in the bank. I added deposits we have with 2 of the utilities since they are pretty large. February will be the next time we'll have our net worth go up as much.

January Budget:

This one was hard to do a bit on the income side, since it was a moving target. I've also decided to count the bank carry-over from the previous month into the budget since we are planning on building a reserve in the housing bank account.


Bank Account $470
Rent Income $1300
Day Job $2916
Computer Repair Job $150
Programming Job $350
Mystery Shopping $125

Total Inflow: $5,241


Mortgage 1127
Natural Gas 77
Electricity 89
House Phone 30
Water 45
Car Gas 240
Groceries 160
Cell Phone 50
Life Ins 95
Mrs. Fun $ 30
Mr. Fun $ 30
Toiletries 30
Dining Out 60
Babysitting 10
Scheduled Debts 400
Bible Study Books 15
Housing Acct. 575
Car Repair 400
Entertainment Books 30
Debt Acct. 1748

The dining out doubled since we have been doing a fair amount of restaurant mystery shopping the past month and we're trying to schedule one for this week coming up as well. The scheduled debts are $300 to Home Depot (settling in February) and $100 to Capital One. My wife has a bible study starting up soon, so the money is for her books.

The Housing Account money will be the carry-over into January. The plan is that 2 of our roommates pay near the beginning of the month consistently, so we take their checks and the carry-over to cover the mortgage at the beginning of the month and most of the utilities. The other 2 roommates then pay out on a weekly basis, which we'll put most of it in the bank account for carry-over to the following month.

The $400 car repair is for both of our cars to have service on. The entertainment books are a gift for a high-school friend of mine as well as one for us (we gave ours as a gift to one of the roommates that was wooing over ours). The rest goes into our debt snowball savings account to settle with Home Depot in February with.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Additional Jobs

Well, the past couple of months my on-call computer job has been slow. I'll be getting a $30 deposit on Friday, second one in the past 6 weeks. ($30, $120, $30) This has helped me push myself to start changing my gears towards what I'm wanting to do, which is programming from home. I'm going at it a couple of ways:

- Increase certification. I've got a fair amount of programming experience, but I know having the extra sheets of paper showing I know my stuff will help. I've got 2 exams I am studying for right now.

- Small projects. I've looked at some of the rent a coder type sites, with too much competition for the work. I ended up finding one this past week on Craigslist that I will be meeting with this morning to review their project and most likely start helping them here and there.

The biggest thing I've learned about work through the past 2 years of chaos and change is this: Jobs are like investments, you don't want all your income from one source. It's just like you wouldn't trust your entire nest egg on one penny stock.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Transmission Leak

This week has been a bit busy and I haven't posted. My car on Wednesday lost so much transmission fluid that I was unable to change gears. I suspect it's a simple repair due to when I put in some more fluid, I was able to drive just fine home. We have been blessed to have a second car to use, so we have not needed to make a rash decision on the repair. Here's how our logic has gone regarding the repair:

1. Bring to our normal repair shop - OK idea, but are they the best people for the job?

2. Local transmission shop - did some research and found one that has been in business 50+ years right down the street with one of the original owners still working there. If the job was a big one that someone else can't take care of, I'm going there.

3. Roommate - He works at an oil change place and thinks if it is something basic, he might be able to repair it. He's checking with his boss and will let me know if he can bring it into there to look at real quick.

Hopefully this won't take much to repair, the car we bought for $400 8 months ago.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

2008 Goals

I am not one into making new-years resolutions, but here are my goals for the year and when I plan on reaching most of them:

Specific Times:
Transfer to pre-paid cell phone plan by 1/20
Settle Home Depot CC for $3.1K by 2/20
Settle Menards CC for $2K by 3/20
Settle Capital One CC for $4K by 5/20
Increase our "Fun Money" to $100/each/month by 6/1 (and include dining out, vacation, & Christmas in there)
Professionally remove trees in yard by 6/20
Settle misc debts for $3K by 9/1
Reinstate tithing by 9/1
Chimney lined and fireplace installed by 9/14 (our wedding anniversary)
$3K Emergency Fund by 12/31 ($1K/month from Oct, Nov, & Dec)

Not specific time:
Go on a missions trip for 1 week during the year
Take 3 Microsoft certification exams and pass
Increase day job salary by 10%
Triple the size of our garden
Move daughter into her own room and lose 1 renter (she is in our room right now)
Go out on a date with my wife every month

None of them seem unrealistic to me. The financial goals would be messed up if I was out of work for a long period of time, but based on our year-end work party, things are looking good at my work.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Checking Out Second Fridge

With so many people in the house, it was just a matter of time before we'd need a second fridge. The couple with a newborn have been on food stamps recently and so they are getting more food, causing our fridge and freezer to be stuffed to the brim. My wife is going to hopefully go check out a fridge today I found on Craigslist, just a few months old with the plastic still on it for $450. I couldn't get the exact model details from the person, but based on the description and my research it looks like it goes for $800 online.

If this one doesn't pan out, I'll keep an eye out. I'm not willing to spend more than about 60% retail for the fridge. Any more than that and I'm just better off getting one from the store. At the same time, I don't want to get an older one that will take more energy to run and cost us more in the long-run.

Overall, it's going to be a budget buster when we get it, but we'll make it work.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How I've Spent $125 Gift So Far

A few weeks ago I posted about receiving a birthday/anniversary gift from my in-laws for $250. My wife and I couldn't decide on something together to get, so we decided to split it. Here's what I've spent so far:

$20 Vintage RISK game with the wooden pieces
$6 UNO Wild Tiles - I used to play this as a kid and loved it, brought to a Christmas party that my small group at church had and we had a lot of fun
$10 Finance - Old board game similar to Monopoly.
$21 - MCTS 70-536 book to study for the exam, I'm wanting to get certified more

That leaves me with $68. The reason I'm doing the math is to keep myself accountable, since I can easily just feel like I have all the money in the world and spend beyond the $125 without even thinking about it. The other reason is that I just got a $100 American Express gift card from work and now almost back to the same dilemma. The choices have changed a bit:

- Wood Stove: This will get us ready for the installation in the summer. I'd hold off the purchase until the sales in February. I'd be looking in the $150-$250 range.

- KitchenAid Mixer: My wife has for the longest time wanted one of those mixers on a stand. We have a hand mixer, but it has limitations (which we hit a bit of this weekend when trying to make dinner rolls). It runs for $150.

- Certification exams: I'm planning on taking at least 3 exams this coming year to get myself certified, I don't know if this should be taken from my fun money or if we need to setup an education fund. Items like this will help my career and future income. Each test will run about $125 each. I've got all the study materials I need.

I'm leaning towards the exams as choice #1, mixer as #2, and wood stove as #3. What do you think?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Living At The Poverty Line

I am aiming toward the poverty line, not away from it.

I had never thought one of my financial goals in this way, but something clicked recently. If you consider our net expenses after our roommates pay us, we're running around $700/month of basic living expenses. The poverty guideline for our size of family is $1,430/month. Our finances changed this way out of necessity (we were below the poverty line for part of the year, including roommate income) as well as our goals to get out of debt. Our basic living expenses can't go much further down, so our basic goal now is to keep an eye on the non-required expenses and boost up that income as much as we can.

If my only goal was to work minimally, I'd just have to find enough work to bring home $700/month. My goals right now are not just that, but getting out of debt, so I am focusing on the short term of increasing income in order to win long term.

Grandmother & Grandson

I had my eye exam last night and I got talking to the associate about my unique housing situation (6 roommates, 5 adults and 1 infant). She told me a bit of her situation and it doesn't sound good:

- Recently bought a 3 bedroom house, new construction
- Only her and her grandson live there
- Was praying about the housing situation just that day and considering getting renters.
- Concerned that she might foreclose on the house
- Just came back from vacation.
- Doesn't buy her grandson expensive toys.

I talked about 20 minutes about my situation, left her my number w/ my wife's name on it and the name of our church. If she doesn't change her ways soon, I wouldn't be surprised that she loses the house. She is in the same boat I was in, spending too much on the big items and little on the little items. I prayed for her this morning and she'll be on my thoughts for a while.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Misc Saving & Spending This Week

We'll, our daughter is now almost 7 months old and we're getting ready for the next size up in diapers. That means at our house hunting around for material and my wife sewing for a few days. We went to Walmart recently and the one near us is moving down the road and turning into a Super-Walmart, so they had their fabric on sale big time. We picked up a lot of the liner material there for $1/yard.

This Friday we'll be going out to dinner at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant and getting paid $25 for our expenses there. We enjoyed it a lot when we did it in August and the report for the mystery shopping wasn't too long.

This Saturday we'll be going out to dinner for a work party at a decent Italian restaurant. We had a church Christmas party to go to at the same time, but I'm wanting to meet some of my co-workers that I never see (it's from my night job).

As mentioned before, I'll be doing an eye exam tomorrow as well paid for.

My wife applied recently for the $100 from Bank of America for opening an account with $100. They said it would take a couple of business days to approve the account, we had settled all the past problems with her bank accounts so it should be approved.

We decided to split the $250 we received from my wife's parents and each spend the way we want to. I've decided to grow our board game collection a bit, still leaving me with about $90 to decide what to do with.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Free Vision Test This Week For Me

This year my wife and I have gotten into mystery shopping big time. Last month both of us got oil changes, which we'll be getting paid for at the end of this month. This week I'm going for an eye exam, where they'll pay me for the exam as well as $10 extra. I have been delaying on getting glasses for myself due to the costs of an exam and glasses would have cost me in the past around $150. My vision is not so bad that I can't operate without them (been 2 years since my last pair broke), but I get awful headaches sometimes and have a hard time reading street signs.

Once I get the exam with the prescription, I'll order off of Zenni Optical a pair of glasses for around $18 including shipping. In the end, my total costs will be $8. I love it!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Reviewed My Credit Report

It has been 6 months since I've checked out my credit report, so I decided to pull my Equifax report. Found 4 errors on it, which were:

- My name misspelled, they have the correct spelling listed as my previous name.
- 1 store credit card still open, closed 4 years ago
- Another store credit card still open, closed 4 years ago
- One creditor I paid in full in July it is showing that it had been charged off, but not settled.

Overall, not too bad for 39 page report. When my wife wakes up, I'll see about pulling hers as well to make sure nothing horrible is on it.

What got me wanting to do it this morning was some friends of ours from church had their identity stolen. It was not to the point of charging credit cards, but someone used their name/address/phone # to sign up for coupon programs online that charge to your house phone bill. They suspect it was due to their resume being put up on recently.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Entertainment Books $10 Off w/ Free Shipping

The Entertainment Books are out at great prices again this year, my local area one is $15 with free shipping after the $10 discount. We go out to eat 1-2 a month, so it will easily make up the difference. Some of the coupons I can get from other sources (eg: house phone book, incoming mail, on-line searching), but they end up being about the same as in the book. It saves me time as well, so that I don't have to hunt for a coupon when I have it on hand.

Next year I'll include a tally on the right of how much I saved from the Entertainment Book. It'll be interesting to see how that goes.

Downside: Purchasing them online now will probably mean you won't get yours until after Christmas unless you pay for shipping. I'm not giving it as a gift, so that's not a problem for me.

Disclosure: I do get a commission if you purchase after clicking the link above. I bought a book myself today.