Sweet Home

The Root of All Evil

Tonight was book club night and I just got home, so a short post this evening.

We have been spending a lot of money lately.  I bought an iPhone (which is supposed to arrive tomorrow – yay!); we just bought a new mattress; we spent a small fortune in Portland; we took the dog to the vet and that was $400; our electric bill for last month was $200 thanks to our crappy air conditioning…we have a lot going on this month, but when the dust settles, I think we need to go into financial hibernation for a little while.  We’re set up well for this sort of thing – I manage our money pretty tightly, making sure money goes into various savings funds and retirement every month and we pay off all of our bills, including credit cards, in full every month (except for the mortgage and student loan, the only debts we carry) – but we’ve had a lot of top-dollar expenditures lately.

And so this always leads me to wonder how other people manage their money.  I track ours very carefully in a spreadsheet put out years ago by pearbudget.com (they’re a paid online service now, but a few years ago it was just a guy and a blog and his free wonderful spreadsheet that I still use – I can’t find it on his website or blog anymore, but if anyone is interested let me know in the comments and I’ll email you the shell).  Every week, I go through all of the receipts and login to Mint.com to track all of our non-receipt spending, and enter all the transactions into our spreadsheet.  I see how close to or far off of our budget we are, and we curb our spending for the month if we need to.  That’s also when I pay any bills that came in during the week.  That may seem anal to some people, but it helps me feel in control of our money.

I feel like this is something people don’t talk about enough.  Money is kind of a taboo subject, but I want to know!  What do other people do?  How do you make sure your bills get paid and you put aside some savings?

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11 thoughts on “The Root of All Evil

  1. We don’t travel. We don’t shop (for things other than the necessities). Managing our budget isn’t that difficult. Like you, we pay off our credit card balance in full every month. I would like us to put more money into savings, but I don’t think that’s going to happen until I’m back up to full salary in August (my paychecks were slashed because of the unpaid maternity leave I took). One day we’ll have two salaries again too. I can’t even imagine what that will be like. But for now it’s worth it to have Will at home with the boy.

    1. Your husband clearly does not have the same kind of comic book habit that mine does. At least a couple of times a year I have to remind him that we are not independently wealthy.

  2. Hey, I’d like a copy of the spreadsheet! I’ve been keeping track of our spending with Netvibes sticky notes, hehe.
    We try to keep our finances as automated as possible, but any bills that come in the mail and aren’t automatically paid, I take care of as soon as I can (talk about anal!).
    Otherwise, I came up with a fun little savings system that works for me:
    Eric gets paid biweekly, which is 26 times a year, but most months he only gets two paychecks, so I use that net income as his monthly budget base. I get paid weekly, so I just use four paychecks. That means that in the months that I get five paychecks or Eric gets three, we have a bonus to either throw into savings or do something fun. But we also sock away a good amount each month since neither of our jobs is the most secure.
    We also tend to spend more in the summer (fresh fruit and veggies and cookouts) and save in the winter (eating out and partying less), so it’s all about finding that balance. I think Eric keeps me from being too stingy and I keep him from not having anything in savings.

    1. Sara! I’m surprised; I figured you had some elaborate system 🙂 I’ll have to wait until I get home tonight, but I’ll email the spreadsheet to you.

      I do the same thing with Dave, you know – he makes me spend money, and I make him save it. I think it generally works out okay, though I constantly feel compelled to save MORE. I would be a money hoarder if he let me, probably.

      1. A little of the Eakin blood coming out? It is sad my daughter is a better money manager than her mother!!

      2. I think Grandma influenced me when it came to money more than I ever knew… I’m not really all that different from when I was a kid and would hoard my birthday and Christmas money until I really wanted something or bought something for someone else. Same principle, but I get paid twice a month now. 🙂

  3. You may be surprised by my answer, knowing that I am of the financial professional sort. I don’t budget or track to the penny and I couldn’t tell you the last time I balanced my checkbook (although I eyeball all of my accounts to make sure nothing is awry).

    That having been said, I follow a hybrid of the 60% Solution (http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/LearnToBudget/OldASimplerWayToSaveThe60Solution.aspx) and the Pay Yourself First philosophy.

    We know what our committed expenses are (as in the 60% solution), such as mortgage, utilities, insurance, student loans, vet needs, regular medical expenses, to an extent food and clothing, and so forth. I add short-term, long-term, and retirement savings to the “committed expenses” list. Short term savings are our emergency savings for the proverbial rainy day — I prefer to have at least six months of committed expenses (other than savings) there. Long term savings are for things we can plan for — I alternatively call this my Take This Job and Shove It fund. There are decent calculators out there (my favorite was through one of my old 401(k) administrators and I don’t have access to it anymore, alas) to help figure what you might need to stash for retirement (whether it’s in a 401(k), IRA, Roth, whatever). Anywho. Those savings come out and are deposited into savings accounts automatically. Regular committed expenses are largely paid automatically (well, except vet/medical). We use credit cards as a tool of convenience, paid off every month.

    Anything left over, we don’t worry much about. When big things happen, that’s what the short-term savings is for. Or we want big things to happen (such as now, we’re looking to buy a truck), I crunch the numbers to see what we need to do, or can afford without a big headache out of the long-term savings, and discuss it with Lee.

    As I’ve said elsewhere before, living within one’s means comes down to being able to have a firm grasp on Need versus Want. Luckily I’m naturally fairly frugal and he’s much the same.

    1. I think it helps if you’re both frugal. David is not. I’ve had to assign us both a specific amount of “blow” money for the month, and he has to work to keep his purchases within that amount while I only actually hit my limit 2-3 months of the year. And I am such an anal control freak that I feel panicky if I don’t know what the state of our budget is. We have plenty of money in an emergency fund, and we have long-term (and short-term) savings goals too, like Christmas, which I save for all year, and the car fund, because both of our cars are getting old. And we contribute the max to get the max employer matching to our 401(k)s and we have Roth IRAs that we contribute to every month, etc. etc. I feel comfy with our way because I feel in control. But I’m always curious to know how everybody else does it! Thanks for the dinkytown link, though – I love playing with calculators. 🙂

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