Friday, May 21, 2010

Planning ahead for spontaneity (but only a little)

One envelope that I have found to be essential to my budget is my Use-It-For-Anything-I-Darn-Well-Please Envelope (Dave Ramsey refers to this as "Blow Money"). In my first few bi-weekly budgets, this envelope served as Mistake Money. If one of my envelopes for essentials like groceries or gas was short, I had a little extra to supplement those needs. It also allowed me a little bit of wiggle room as I was learning to cut back on non-essentials like dining out and impulse purchases at my budget's retail nemesis: Target.

Over the past few months, I've gotten better at sticking to my budget and can now easily manage with a quarter of the Blow Money that I used to budget. Fairly often, I have money leftover at the end of the budget period that I carry over into the next period.

Why is it important to have a little money without a specific destination? For me, if I don't plan for a little fun, the this-debt-is-impossible-and-I'm-never-going-to-beat-it anxiety and depression can begin to take hold. Having even a small amount of cash that can be used for anything allows a small amount of freedom and flexibility within an otherwise strict budget.

How is your budget? The link below will take you to a simplified version of DR's budgeting software. It gives recommended percentages for spending each category that were really helpful when I first started budgeting. It made it obvious to me where I needed to make major adjustments.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

We've crossed another threshold!

Total paid since starting this project on February 5th, 2010: $5,068!!

and my $1,000 Emergency Fund is still actively preventing emergencies from occuring. It's amazing how few emergencies happen when you're prepared.

I'm one-third of the way to my 2010 goal. I am right on track to pay off $15k this year! Maybe I can achieve a -0- net worth by the end of the year. I could be worthless! : )

Thank you so much for the comments and kudos! I think I'm a pretty average American debt story. All I've done differently is choose to talk about the financial mess I've created and the hard work and sacrifices that it is now taking to make a better life for myself and my girls. Having the support of regular readers and those just passing through keeps helps to keep me motivated, so thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dear Target, It's not you, it's me. Well, mostly it's you...

This is how trips to Target nearly always go for me: With kids in tow, grab a cart and aim for the things on my list.  On the way to those things, I remember (or am distracted by) other things that I want to look for/at.  Gradually, my cart fills with things that aren't on my list. By the time I've located and picked up everything on my list, I've at least doubled the number of items I intended to purchase.  It is laid out so the necessities that are frequently on your list (toilet paper, milk, pet food, etc.) are in areas that require that you to walk through the entire store to get them.  I hate to admit it, but it works.

Because I always get a cart at these stores I don't see the number of items that are piling up because they're several feet away from me behind children and a pile of grocery totes and a giant bag of who-knows-what-the-girls-put-in-my-purse-this-time.  I've discovered that when I carry a basket, not only do the girls get more exercise and burn a little more of their preschooler energy, but I also see the items piling up and I feel the physical burden of the items I'm about to purchase.

However (and perhaps this goes without saying), the best solution for me has been to avoid Target as much as possible.  I buy groceries at the grocery store.  I buy toiletries at Costco if I can since they last forever.  If I do "need" to go to a department store, I make a list and do my best to stick to it. I take very little cash along to nix the impulse buys and get out of there as fast as I can.  I treat Target like a bad part of town where I could get mugged if I turn down the wrong aisle.  If I can stick to my list, I leave the store without feeling beat up or losing my money.
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