“Where Have I Been?” or “Life (School) Happens”

This may be a long post as I’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do. First, I want to say to anyone still checking out my blog: thank you!!! Second, I did not fall off the earth/suffer an illness/forget about blogging/stop bullet journaling/forget my WordPress password/etc. We all know life happens to the best of us, including me. To pick up where I left off last time

The biggest change is that I decided to go back to school instead of trying to find another office job where I would be unhappy. I didn’t anticipate that calling to make an appointment with the school the last week of March would end up with me starting classes the first week of April. While it may look like a snap decision from the outside, it is something I had been thinking about for over a year, and 12 weeks in I have not regretted the decision. I feel like I am where I need to be now, and heading in a direction I need to go. 🙂

So far I have chosen not to work while attending classes, but that will need to change within a few months as my unemployment benefits aren’t unlimited (unfortunately). I’ve already put some thought into where I want to apply, so it’s just a matter of feeling “ready” to add work to my life with school. I do already have a college degree, but the first time school was my job and I didn’t have a home, significant other, or cats to care for (or bills to pay) so this time is a different experience. I’ve made improvements to my time management since April, but I want to be sure I have a handle on it before I try adding anything else.

In addition to school, we had planned and budgeted to attend PAX East 2016 in April. (See my highlights here.) Since part of the trip had been booked already and the rest had money set aside, we went. One benefit of having started budgeting late last year is that we already had a buffer and a plan. The past couple of months Andrew has had more hours at work, so that’s helped to make up the difference between what I was paid while working and what my unemployment is. We’re not paying off debt with “gazelle intensity”, but our 4 walls are more than taken care of. (Just don’t tell Dave Ramsey I’m taking out student loans…)

I’m still doing couch to 5k! I haven’t actually completed the program yet, but I’m still working at it. I’ve reached the point where I don’t want to miss one of my 3 weekly sessions of jogging/walking, and I’ve even decided to add in a bit of additional fitness.

I’ve been trying to make sure not to forget self-care–or just taking a break in general. I like getting things accomplished as much as the next person, but especially with homework my brain can get fried.

My bullet journal… That may have to be its own post. Habit trackers always end up being a fail for me because, well, they just do. I try putting too many things on it and it becomes a source of guilt (the opposite of its intended purpose). Toward the end of the month, I always seem to have restlessness about moving from my Arc to another notebook. I tried two different notebooks I already had in April and ended up back in my Arc. I bought some Martha Stewart lined paper for it (aqua!) so I’ve now decided my bullet journal stays put at least until that is used up. I would prefer grid paper, but I have crappy (thin) copy paper at the moment and got tired of printing (and cutting and punching) my own and then every pen bleeding through. I’ve already started setting up July in the Arc, so I am delaying the decision of a new notebook until further notice.

I think that’s all for this time, readers. I don’t want to put a novel up here. How did Spring treat you? Are you ready for July yet?

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Finance Report – February 2016

The transition to a new month is when most people review their budget, as do we. See our January review here.

I’ll start with what had the most impact on our budget this month: tax refunds. Andrew and I filed our taxes in January, so we got our refunds early. (Except my state refund, which I’m still waiting for…) We’d talked beforehand about how we wanted to use this money. Part of it was put back for a trip we’re taking in April, and the rest was supposed to go to debt. We did pay off debt #2 on the list as planned, but the rest of the game plan changed somewhat.

My laptop is due for replacement, especially after I dropped it and killed the screen the last week of February. Instead of using tax money to replace it immediately, I started a laptop replacement fund.

Andrew spent a few days in Orlando participating in Extra Life United. His entry fee, flight, and hotel were paid for. We had to cover food, park admission at Disney, and souvenirs–which I grossly underestimated. His mom generously contributed to his trip money, which was a huge help.

The statement for debt #3 arrived on the last day of the month, when I had planned to make the extra payment. I left the money where it was and will bump it to this month’s payment.

Then of course I decided I wanted a birthday fund for myself (it’s quickly approaching), so Andrew agreed it would be ok to set out $50 for that.

Barring all of that, we did pretty well staying within normal budget categories. Andrew being gone for most of a week allowed us to cut the grocery bill to help account for other things.

I didn’t do much to update our budget spreadsheet for March. The main change I made was to split eating out and going to the movies, and increase those budgets slightly. I kept losing Andrew on those being in one category, so they’re split up now for clarity.

Now that we’re doing better at maintaining, I’m thinking about trying You Need A Budget. Back before I met Andrew, I did pay bills with “last month’s money” and I’d love having that security again. People rave about YNAB everywhere so it’s tempting to give it a shot.

I believe that’s all there is to update at this time. Check back next month for March progress!

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Finance Report – January 2016

January was a better month with regard to the budget. The way mine and Andrew’s paydays work out and how they fell with the calendar year, he got 3 pays in December and I got 3 in January–I wish that could happen every month!

My extra paycheck was a big help since we had to take Esmerelda to the vet again unexpectedly (she had a UTI, and apparently gingivitis, which the antibiotic seemed to kick). We also had to deal with an oven repair, which we ended up doing ourselves to save money.

Even with those couple of unexpected expenses (you won’t get me down, Murphy!) we were able to spare $150 for the debt snowball. Plus we still paid off the family loan, so that is one debt knocked off the list. 😀

I think I’ve got all our spending categories covered in the budget (for now). I added in some maintenance/replacement sinking funds which make me feel a bit more secure. I also nixed my Headspace subscription for the time being, just to have one less bill. *sad trombone* (I’m still using the free Take 10 sessions.)

As is the case with most people following the Dave Ramsey plan, we will be in baby step #2 for some time. It’s nice knowing we have a bit of a buffer now–something I haven’t experienced since a couple of years ago.

Revisting my comments from last month:

  • We’re still using the GazelleInTents spreadsheet. The modifications I made for last month worked out well, although I am anxious for the spreadsheet update video they’ve teased.
  • Splitting up the month for to track grocery spending worked SO well. It’s so much easier to have it broken down in increments.
  • Leaving the balance at the amount of our first two bills due was a great idea. I think I’m going to add the third one because it would really reduce my “new month” stress.
  • We did all right with the “entertainment” budget where I set it last month. It’s staying the same in February.

Of course now it’s tax season in the US, but Andrew and I are already ahead of the game and will be getting our refunds before the end of the month. (Sorry, Dave Ramsey–I’m  probably not changing my tax withholding this year to prevent a refund…) Some of the money is being added to our PAX East 2016 fund (a trip we’d already been putting back some $$ for). I believe the rest of the refund money (barring another visit from Murphy) will be going toward debt. If all goes as planned, we’ll get to kick one more debt off the list this month!

Be sure to check back in March to find out how we’ve done this month.

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Finance Report – December 2015

Starting a new budget is tough, so it’s no surprise that things didn’t go perfectly in December.

We hadn’t really done any Christmas shopping and I had no idea what we spent last year, so the budget for gifts was a total guess—and I under budgeted. We also went over on the eating out budget (partially because of the new Star Wars movie…). Thank goodness I got an unexpected bonus from work and those hits were mitigated.

We didn’t end up making any extra payments on our debts. This was partially due to timing of the holidays and partially because of how some of our bill due dates run. We do have money set aside to pay off the family loan, it just needs withdrawn and handed over.

I still managed to leave out some spending categories that we needed.

We did complete baby step #1, and now have $1,000 for emergencies.

What I’ve changed for January as a result:

  • I shopped around for different budget spreadsheets and apps, but decided to give the GazelleInTents one another try, with some modifications.
  • I combined our grocery and household spending, and upped the budget amount a bit. I created 4 lines in the spreadsheet (one for each week) to divide it up and make it easier to track.
  • Instead of budgeting to zero, I’ve set us to budget to the amount needed for the first two bills due each month.
  • I upped our budget for eating out/date nights to accommodate one (regular-priced) in-theater movie per month.

Hopefully budgeting will go better this month. Watch for an update in February!

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Thanks for stopping by!

Our Budget Journey: The Beginning

Welcome to the first month of mine and Andrew’s financial makeover! If you’re interested in learning how we decided to start budgeting to pay off our credit cards and loans, keep reading.

When Andrew and I met, our finances were in totally different states. I’d been living on my own for a couple of years, had a pretty good handle on my bills (I didn’t worry about things being cut off), and had started building a credit history (paying off my bill every month). I didn’t have a ton in savings, but I had a little for “just in case”. Andrew wasn’t working at the time (hard to find jobs in a small town; the site he works for isn’t big enough to pay wages), and had student loans from when he had attended college for a while (that were being deferred). As I said, totally different states.

Fast forward a year: Andrew had a part-time job in my town, had moved in with me, but still had no car. Then I had a sudden job change, which led to me working where I do now (~45 miles from where we were living). Now Andrew needed a car, so I pulled money out of savings to lend him for that. Then he also got a new job near my new job. We ended up making that drive every day for 7(?) months, through a really nasty winter. O_o

During that winter, we began looking for a house closer to our jobs. (Andrew also totaled his car on one of those bad winter mornings, and ended up borrowing money from my parents for another car.) Rent was even more outrageous in the new town than what were were already paying, not to mention we had plans to get a cat, which added more to the bill (in places that even allowed animals). The obvious option was to just buy a house. I went through the process of mortgage application (Andrew’s credit was busted by those student loans), we found a house, and boom–30-year commitment to buying a home. Of course there were other expenses attached to the home-buying process, which were super easy to put on my credit card until we could get our finances better settled.

Guess what? In 19 months, we didn’t manage to get our finances “better settled”. Something would come up, or I’d just put it on the credit card (they kept raising my limit!), and pretty soon that started to accumulate because we couldn’t always afford to pay off the balance. Are you wondering about those student loans? They were still accruing interest, and no payments were being made. My savings? Pitiful. Andrew’s savings? Nonexistent. Don’t forget he was still paying back that family loan for the car. Thankfully “Murphy” did not visit us in this time.

In the last several weeks, I started watching some budgeting and debt-free living videos on YouTube (mostly GazelleInTents). I honestly can’t recall how I came across them, but I’m glad I did (along with all the other budgeting YouTubers). I’d heard of Dave Ramsey before, and the debt snowball, and played around with budgeting, but I never got really serious about it. But I’ve been tired lately: tired of running bank balances to the bottom, tired of needing to put things on the credit card because we don’t have the money now, tired of not “owning” all the things we have. (It used to be a point of pride for me to only be paying current bills.)

So starting in December, we’re following the Dave Ramsey plan. I put together a budget in Google Sheets in the style of GazelleInTents (they have a tutorial series). We’re lucky that this month Andrew gets 3 paychecks and in January, I do. If the rest of the month goes as planned, we will be able to complete Baby Step 1 ($1000 baby emergency fund) and work on Baby Step 2 (pay off all debt except the house). Baby Step 2 is where we’ll be for probably the next couple of years though. It could be much worse! The only debt we have besides the ones I’ve mentioned is the furniture we financed (at 0% at least) right after we moved in.

It’s going to take work to really get things under control. This month hasn’t been perfect (go me for picking a gift-giving month to start tightening our belts!). We are doing better than the past few months though, and more importantly, We Have A Plan. Andrew and I have had discussions about this (I really tried not to spring it on him) and hopefully that’s helped his anxiety about his student loans.

I’m not positive how I’m going to work this series into my blogging schedule yet, but I’m thinking a monthly update will suffice. In January, I will post some more specifics about where our balances started (Dec. 1st) and the progress we were able to make.

Are you on a journey to live debt-free? Do you have any tips for us on budgeting? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to follow the blog, and find me on Instagram and Twitter for more content. I’m sharing recently liked YouTube videos in my Twitter feed, including many on budgeting and becoming debt free.

Thanks for reading!

3 Month-iversary!

Welcome back! I’m here hardly able to believe that I’ve had a blog for 3 months already!

When I started, I wasn’t sure how this would work out for me. I’m not the most talkative in person, and I keep quite a lot to myself, but it turns out that I do have content to share with other people. I even have people interested in reading my content!

So far I’ve been doing all right keeping up with two posts per week, although these posts have been pretty planner-focused. This was not my intention with the blog, it just happened that those posts seemed to get more traffic. Going forward there will be more of the variety in content that I had originally planned.

  • I want to write at least one post per month about knitting–after all, it’s in my blog name, lol.
  • Andrew is trying to turn me into a gamer, so I may start posting my reluctant sporadic gaming experiences.
  • Now that it’s getting cold, I’m in the mood to work on fitness more (go figure). I had a steady gym habit through last winter, but a gym membership isn’t in our budget right now. I’d like to find that mojo again.
  • Speaking of budgets, Andrew and I are trying to spend money more wisely. We have furniture that needs paid off from when we moved into the house, I have a credit card balance I didn’t intend to accumulate, and Andrew has student loans. Not to mention our non-existent savings. Starting December 1st, we’re on a strict budget to get these fixed. I started watching the GazelleInTents YouTube channel, and used their tutorial for a zero-based budget in Excel (based on Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover). So I’m thinking about posting about our monthly progress and/or any struggles we have.
  • Hopefully I’ll be able to post some cat-focused content soon. We had a feline addition to our house in November, and she hasn’t been properly introduced!
  • I’d like to write up some more “favorites” posts, similar to the one I did for planner blogs and videos.

I won’t rule out other content that may come to mind, but at least I have a few goals now of different topics to write on to keep from getting bored myself, or from boring the readers (aka you!).

Let me know in the comments if there is anything particular you’d like to read that I haven’t covered or that you want me to expand on.

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Have a great day! 🙂