A few financial thoughts

Part one of this holiday week is over. I knew I’d be too busy to post anything before, but things are starting to slow down and I can catch up on reading blogs and write a little more now.

We had a full house. My sister and brother-in-law came to visit from Scotland.  My parents also came up from Florida. My parents stayed at a hotel, but were at our house for most of the day while visiting. All of this started last Tuesday and today the last of the guests will be gone. My house has exploded and needs a thorough cleaning again. The cats got spoiled by all the attention, especially Yuki, who will curl up into any and every lap available. My fridge and pantry are full of foods we normally don’t eat, but will be eaten nevertheless because I can’t stand wasting food – even if it was all bought by my parents. (Aside: It really freaks me out how much the rest of my family worships Wegmans.) Each day I was drinking wine, scotch, and/or mixed drinks of some sort and I feel like I need to take a very long break from alcohol. I doubt I will drink much of anything on New Year’s.

Why are holidays so exhausting!? I’m more sleep deprived than ever and I’ve needed a ridiculous amount of caffeine to get me through the work day.

Anyway, the point of this post was to touch on a subject that’s been hovering in my head for a couple months now.

When I started this new job I took a look at my finances and realized I spend too much money on things I don’t need and I could be saving a lot more. I then doubled the amount of money that goes directly into my savings account and double my buy-in amount for my Vanguard Roth IRA, which has done gangbusters this year. I also just got notice I can set up a 401K at my job as well, which I need to set up.

My husband and I sat down and went over our monthly expenses and figured out who owes what and if the general prices of expenses has gone up. He and I are the oddball couple who primarily do not have joined accounts. We do have a joint checking account, but it’s only for house related items (emergency/upkeep/improvement) and “us” things like vacations and anniversary stuffs. He has his own checking, savings, IRA, 401, etc… and I also have my own completely separate accounts. We are very autonomous financially and prefer to keep things separate. It makes it easier for us to track our own purchasing and due to the huge difference in our salaries (68% him/32% me) it makes it easier to be accountable for our own things. We figure out percentage-wise who owes what and divvy up the shared utilities (gas/electric/sewer/water/insurance), mortgage and groceries for the month. He generally pays the mortgage and insurance and I generally pay the monthly utilities and we alternate who buys groceries because we go shopping twice a month.

When we updated everything and I included my own expenses (savings/IRA/car loan/ anime subscriptions/ phone bill/ car gas) I still came up with a lot of extra money. Btw, I always count money put in my savings/IRA as part of my personal monthly expenses – those two accounts must be paid like a bill. This way I will always have money going into those accounts and anything outside of that is extra. I then wondered – where the hell is all that extra money going!? I know some months the bills run more than others – like right now gas is up because we have a gas heater – but by law of averages I should still be seeing a general increase in my checking. However, I’m not, which means I’m spending more than I should be, which then offsets my averages and my checking goes down. I was shocked when I saw the amount that I general “waste” each month and realized I need to be more accountable.

We have several house projects we want to do, but don’t have nearly enough in the joint account for them. So part of my goal for this year is to curb the extra spending (once I figure out where it’s going) and start putting money into the joint account the same way I do my savings/IRA – treat it like a monthly expense that must be paid. Btw, after I tallied up all  my expenses I still had just a little less than half my monthly paycheck available to me. Goal: figure out where the hell I’m spending that much money and shut it down!

 

6 thoughts on “A few financial thoughts”

  1. I’m a huge proponent of meticulously tracking every transaction in real time. Sadly, my preferred software tool (You Need a Budget) has moved to only offering a web-based subscription at a price I think is just too high, even with all the utility it’s given me over the years, so new people can’t get into it as easily. I’ve been tracking meticulously for years, though I realized this year that I’ve started doing it on “autopilot” instead of consciously thinking about my spending, which slightly defeats the purpose. I’m going to rededicate myself to doing it more carefully now!

    When I first started tracking way back in the day, I realized that my big culprits for “but where did the money go” useless spending were Sephora (I’m not a big makeup person and almost all of the skincare products I actually use were from other places) and heedless, poorly planned out use of Amazon prime to… stock up on cleaning products, office supplies, etc. before I actually needed them. (As an illustration, I changed my spending habits and began using YNAB starting in late 2014… and I only used up some of the dish soap I bought “before YNAB” in mid 2016.)

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    1. Wow, I’m in awe of people who do track every single cent. I’ve do general tracking, but not actually paid attention to where everything goes and I’m sure Amazon Prime is a big culprit for me too. It’s so easy to just say, “Oh I need this one thing, I’ll just get it on Amazon…” All of those little “one thing” items tend to add up. I know I’ve been bad with clothing this year too and that’s mostly because I’ve been feeling experimental.
      I’d never heard of YNAB before. After looking at it, I think I can do something similar with my Mint account, which is free and I’ve been using it for several years. I’ve never set up a budget on there, but I know I can.

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  2. I typically have a budget and track meticulously but the holiday (also hosting) got me off track. So now I need to play catch up.

    I’m also in a couple and we deal with finances pretty similarly. Our stuff is separate, despite being together 9 years and living together for 5.

    I also have to tighten the reigns this year and put more in my retirement – right now it’s about 12% but when I was in debt in my twenties I cashed out my old 401ks a few times so I should really be catching up!

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    1. Holidays always throw my spending off track. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say “I’m going to only spend this much on presents this year” or “I will only spend x amount per person” etc… I’d like to get to that point though.

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  3. I tried tracking all of my non-essential expenses for several weeks and it was depressing. Writing down every cappuccino, every individual music download, etc. But, I did it during the holiday season so there were also lots of gifts and party expenses driving up the weekly totals. It was not difficult to convince myself I should quit tracking, because after all Nov-Dec doesn’t reflect my normal spending, so how useful could it be to analyze? (And, of course, I hated the tracking).

    I’m very good at spending every last dollar in my checking account. Like you, I divert money to saving accounts and investments. The money I never see, doesn’t tempt me. I really don’t miss it at all. But I would like to be the kind of person who enjoys saving my discretionary money, too. If I have something specific to save for, I have an easy time contributing more to one account or another. I find it VERY difficult to save for abstract things like my incredibly slow-going “general remodel” fund. I almost wonder if it might be easier to think of a specific, small project to tackle and save for that one thing – then do it, then start the process over again?

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    1. My husband has lots of little accounts he puts money in for to save for separate things. One of them is just call TOY account he uses for buying his video games.
      I know there are three major house projects we want to get done. We have the money for one of them now but the others will take time to save up for. I guess just getting the cheaper ones out of the way first will work best and then maybe setting a goal time to save up for the bigger projects.
      I was really good about keeping a decent buffer of money in my checking account after I’d put money into my savings/investments but since we moved into this house it seems like I keep spending much more money, so I will probably be a bit saddened to see where it’s all been going when I look back at the non-essential purchases over the past couple years. I have a sinking feeling most of it is on clothing too….. yikes.

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