MM’s Money

September 12, 2008

Small Victories!

Filed under: Family Financial Makeover,Lil One,Planning,Saving — mmsmoney @ 12:00 pm
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So based on the FFM (Family Financial Makeover -I’m gonna copyright/trademark that if I can) I went to the credit union and set up three new savings accounts, in addition to the one I already had:

Share Savings 01:  Primary savings – for holding the buffer. Balance: $230 (it was $260, but I transferred $10 to each of the new accounts). It’s still pitiful and sad though!

Share Savings 02: Major Emergency Fund – for building up 6 mos of expenses – which is at this point (including our slash & burn of the budget) roughly $18,000. This would cover us in terms of that major disaster deductible on DH’s business insurance or in the event of my losing my job. Not both – so we’ll have to re-address this goal as money starts piling up. Balance: $10

Share Savings 03: Car Replacement Fund – for the eventual replacement of my vehicle. My 13-year-old rattletrap which I love and cherish and whisper sweet “do not die on me” nothings to every single day. Balance: $10

Share Savings 04: Baby College Fund. With a grand total of $20 in it. Wait! What’s that you say? My numbers don’t add up? You’re right! My branch manager, who knows my name you know!, let me know that for college savings accounts, the credit union puts in their own $10. So free $10 for Lil One! Woot!

Now I know some of you would say, why local Credit Union with its measly 1.5% interest on savings accounts? Why not ING or HSBC or some other bank? Well, I plan on converting each of the values in these accounts to other accounts when they get built-up. A combo of 3, 6, 9, 12 mo. CDs (see below) and for baby-girl, an educational investment instrument of some sort that I haven’t yet researched. So for now, until we’re dough-rolling, I’m happy to have these monies socked away closer to home.

Oh, and I opened another account too – the credit union version of a Certificate of Deposite is a Share Certificate. Normally, the minimum initial deposit is $1000 and earns 4.1% (12 month – I think the 6 month ones earn slightly less). But right now, they are running a promotion to attract members who might not be able to affort the minimum deposit. SO I bought a share certificate that can be augmented with additional funds throughout the term for $10. And it earns 6%!!! Upon thinking about it, I should have put baby’s CF amount in that, but they wouldn’t have matched it. And I can always earmark the Share Cert for Baby Girl when we are wealthy and almost debt free next September. I just can’t exceed the 1000 or the entire thing becomes a normal Share Cert – which is weird. What if it had 990 and earned interest to top 1000? Would the whole thing then lose the special rate? I am so uneducated and Sometimes don’t ask enough questions!

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September 11, 2008

Conflicting Goals, Maybe?

Filed under: Debt,Planning,Uncategorized — mmsmoney @ 12:00 pm
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So part of my family financial makeover is to start saving. Family Financial Makeover has a nice ring to it…Googling…No, it doesn’t appear that I am using someone else’s trademark/copyright (I get those confused). OK. It’s MINE. My Catch Phrase. Hands Off! Now how do I trademark/copyright it? Can I get people to pay me for usage?

 Ok- back to topic: Yes, I am trying to build the buffer between me & disaster (that YNAB Rule#1 one-month’s expenses discussed in the previous post – listed as Goal 1 below), but at the same time, I have equally important and compelling goals:

  1. Goal: Generate Buffer. Execution – slash & burn expenses and allocate avoided dollars to buffer.
  2. Goal: Pay down debt. Execution – begin snowballing personal loan (at the YIKES! interest rate of  18.6% !) to free up cashflow in the budget ($201.50 per month). Current Snowball Amount: $100/month
  3. Goal: Start saving for Major Emergency Fund/Baby College/Car Fund. Execution: start slowly at $10 per payperiod in 3 accounts (total per month: roughly $60).

Now why would I try to accomplish all three goals at once? Am I setting myself up for failure?

First, for psychological reasons. I have been so beaten down by financial trauma, stress and discontent that I need to start on that debt ASAP. And I feel that with the help of YNAB, I can get to my one-month’s goal within the same timeframe as paying of that personal loan. And I do buy into the Dave Ramsey small-victories build momentum approach…I need to change my behaviors and I need to get positive reinforcement through accomplishing a goal. I should note I have not read any of Dave Ramsey’s books – I’ve heard his radio show two or three times, but I have read A LOT of blog posts and comments-debates on his theory and alternative approaches! I guess I am luck that my smallest debt and the highest interest rate are the same debt so I don’t have to be “stupid” according to varying groups of blog-commenters (and I’m pretty sure they are roughly divided in half in each of these camps).

Second, it’s kinda six-of-one, 1/2 dozen of the other to me. I’ve screwed up and screwed up badly in the past and have not done the requisite learning from my mistakes (yet – I need another disaster to prove/execute on what I’ve learned). Building the buffer will implement the YNAB approach, but only if no emergencies happen in the near term (til I get that loan cleared). My credit union really takes care of its members and in conversation with my branch manager, who yes – does know me by name, she indicated that the credit union is very willing to help members get out of trouble when they proven themselves dedicated to fixing their issues which (in context that I shan’t go into) to me sounded like my clearing my loan successfully (never been late, never asked for more funds, paid extra upon occassion and more regularly lately) would be beneficial if that near-term disaster were to appear. I really think my car is going to die soon – I really do. And being eligible for a car loan from them in 6 months is more likely than my being able to save $7000 for a good used vehicle. So as awful as it sounds, I’m almost resigned to needing another loan! and need to clear the current one to ensure this future one becomes available.

Last, the savings issue – I’m oh-so optomistic here. We have to have the major emergency fund – DH’s insurance (liability) has a $10K deductible. Where we would get that money should a project he’s working on go up in flames and we’re liable…Oh I could lose sleep over that. $10 at a time sounds miserly, but babysteps, right? Next – the baby. She will get college tuition paid for and I need to let the power of compounding interest begin to work its mojo. Simple as that – it is as important as any other goal in my personal view. And last – yes that car will die sometime. Maybe its death is 6 months from now, maybe 18 months. In any case, some money will be set aside for that eventuality and to avert the total need for another loan!

So tackling them concurrently, although with differing amounts budgeted against each per month, seems like a reasonable approach to deconflict the goals. Ultimately, it’s my job to make sure we don’t screw up again and this is the plan for now. Subject to revision, subject to God’s Will!

September 10, 2008

BIG News And a Hurricane!

Filed under: DH,Lifestyle,Planning,Relationships — mmsmoney @ 5:49 am
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Big news – DH reconsidering his work situation + a chance conversation at a social event = NEW JOB. Having just started this blogging thing last week, I didn’t post anything about his resume-writing, interviewing, etc – especially since this all came together since Labor Day, but OMGoodness! And I didn’t want to get my hopes up, either.

He was talking to an old friend at a cookout, and she mentioned being overwhelmed at work – she had an empty job that no one had applied for in the 6 weeks the posting/requisition had been open. She works for a non-profit community agency that manages social support grant money from the Federal and State governments – including a brand new program area that supports green-building efforts in the lower income housing field. DH was/is fascinated by this burgeoning industry – green-construction – and they spoke for a long time about the new program and the job itself – serving as project manager/inspector for this new program. That was MONDAY 8 days ago (9/1/08)!

Tuesday (9/2/08) I fixed up his resume to highlight the associated work skills/qualifications and he emailed it to his contact. Wednesday (9/3/08) she called to set up the interview. Thursday (9/4/08) he interviewed. Friday (9/5/08) they checked his references and ran background checks. Monday…nothing. Yesterday (9/9/08) – HE GOT THE JOB. It’s definitely nowhere near the money he had been pulling in a few years ago, but it is a JOB. 8 to 5, Monday through Friday, they want him to start this upcoming Tuesday – the 16th. After consciously trying NOT to get excited/hopeful, this is an awesome and amazing change for our family.

Money. He’ll bring home roughly $2400 per month. $800 will go to daycare, right off the top. Now we have to budget the rest responsibly. We haven’t had the conversation, but certainly a large chunk of that will hopefully be going to pay down our debt at a rate I will be HAPPY to report month after month!

 So since this will be the first office environment in 8 years, he’s gonna have to buy some clothes.  That will be an investment not accounted for in this month’s budget, but it has to be done. This is a slacks and shirt office, no jeans/t’s/golf shirts – so I figure he can get by with khaki’s (3 or 4 pairs – NOT dry-clean-only) and roughly 5 to 8 shirts. He really does not have anything that will do – his previous jobs/contracts had been construction sites – where a t-shirt without holes/stains was fancy! We’re hitting Kohl’s Department Store (maybe one-step up from TJ Maxx and one-step down from Dillards) first for the basics…I’m thinking $250 for the slacks/shirts and a pair of shoes. Does that seem reasonable? If necessary, he can get by with his ‘nice’ boots if we can’t find any office shoes this weekend.

Then there’s Hurricane Ike swinging through the Gulf at us – projected to hit Corpus Christi Friday afternoon – putting storms at our door Friday night/Saturday morning. So maybe shopping should be done tomorrow evening, instead. Our landscaping sure could use the rain – but I hate to hear of damage/destruction from storms, so we’ll be praying it lands gently.

September 8, 2008

What We’re Doing

Filed under: Planning — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am
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So we had a budget for many months and unsuccessfully tried to spend only what we made only when the money was available in our checking account. But that really wasn’t working for us…timing of bills, the variability of DH’s income, fixed expenses were just piling up at the wrong times. So we have been struggling, even with the help we’ve received this year. Recently – like 6 weeks ago, and I wish I could remember how I found the link/referral, I found the  http://www.youneedabudget.com/blog/ And I read a lot without even realizing the blog was in support of or accompanied a product! Duh! So I was reading about these “Rules” and thinking, yeah – that makes sense. How simplistic (and not necessarily in a good way) – I could have come up with that!

When I finally looked to the top of the page and saw the links to success stories and the history of the blog, the light came on – OH This is Selling Something! And that something is You Need A Budget software – YNAB.  The creator of the software is an accountant who started his homegrown spreadsheet budgeting solution when he and his now wife were still in school – trying to live on pennies a day and struggling to forecast what monies they would have to spend in the future. Well, we’re there, DH and I. We needed a tool and a system that allowed us to budget without knowing the variables that would impact the upcoming month. So here it was – the tool and the system – and for the bargain basement price of $39.95!

Funny the timing – August was a good month, since I actually caught up on the electricity bills for the summer ($300 June $450 July $360 August) and had about $150 to live on after the month’s first paycheck. So I spent that $39.95 and downloaded the software, the bonus excel worksheets and the YNAB way ‘book’ which is the detail of how The Rules work and how to begin integrating the budgeting and The Rules into your life.

I read the book at the gym that next day (I run on the elliptical machine for an hour every other day) and installed the software that afternoon. And we’re on our way! In a nutshell, YNAB advocates the following Rules:

1) Spend last month’s income to pay for this month’s expenses. Since you know at the end of the last month what you’ve made, you can allocate that amount and only that amount for this month’s budget.  To live under this rule, you have to save up the amount of a typical month’s expenses (including plug numbers to accumulate annual expenses across a budget item) before you can truly be worry free! So far we are $200 towards our one-month’s buffer.

2) Give every dollar a job – allocate all monies to specific budget line items to balance to zero each month. This concept is not new (see my simplistic comment above), but the execution approach is – sock any extra income into that buffer category instead of letting it be ‘unassigned’ in a savings account. That way, you know what each dollar is doing for you and this removes temptation to reallocate if things get tight in the month!

3) Prepare for circumstances – like annual bills – that you can expect, but sometimes don’t know the numbers! Setting aside money in categories within the budget to prepare for these amounts seems simple, but again, something about the methodology and software allows me (or will allow me to try) to resist the temptation to raid a category to fund a minor budget gaff.

4) Roll with the punches. Once you’ve funded the buffer and aren’t living paycheck to paycheck you can proact for #3 events and react as necessary for the stuff you can’t foresee.

So we’re 3 weeks in…and ended August with $200 ‘in the black’ on our buffer.  And we’re budgeted into the middle of September without ‘raiding’ savings. Maybe by the end of September we’ll be a week ahead in earning vs. spending!

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