June 7th, 2020 at 08:24 pm
A few weeks ago I was celebrating the arrival of unexpected money: $212 from the car insurance for cancelling Bertha (minivan that departed), $54 voluntary refund from insurance to account for the stay-at-home order, and $40 refund from the school for the pay-to-play fee since the sports season was cancelled.
I also cancelled the 0% CC that was paid off which didn’t bring in money but did simplify my financial life by removing an account.
Then it went the other way and in a big way. The company implemented a 10% pay cut on total compensation across the board. The reasons were valid – they are trying to avoid layoffs and foresee the revenue being much lower this year. The pay cut is supposed to be for this fiscal year only and if the revenue doesn’t fall as sharply as anticipated, we may get some of it back later. Other cuts were made too – travel, hiring, and summer interns were some of them.
As a result, I had to make tough decisions about items in our family’s budget to cut or eliminate. No more ordering in dinner from local businesses once a week. No more family trip planned for this summer. Of course it wasn’t fun relaying this information to the kids but despite it being unpleasant, I did think it was a teachable moment. They got to see my response (as our family’s CFO) to a sudden unexpected reduction in income. And we’ll be fine.
I wish our local school board had enough fiscal maturity to go through that exercise. They also have realized that revenue will be impacted by the shutdown this year and instead of making tough decisions on budget line items, they are planning to raise taxes in hope of making up the difference! I usually don’t have strong feelings about local politics, but this time, maybe because of my situation, I am annoyed by them. One of every five neighbors is unemployed and probably wondering how they will pay the whopper property tax bill this year without selling their homes and you’re going to raise it? Such a lack of compassion and responsibility.
April 23rd, 2020 at 12:35 pm
I track our spending and overall we’re spending less but we’re spending a lot more in two budget categories: home maintenance and restaurants. It’s to pay for local places that are open like house & yard services and restaurant delivery/pick-up once a week. The once-a-week food delivery is expensive because we have big boys with big appetites but it’s becoming a homebound tradition, and I feel good about supporting the local businesses.
I usually order a variety of options instead of full meals, then we put everything on the island in the kitchen so we can each sample a variety of interesting items. So far our weekly meals have been Japanese for DH’s b-day, Indian twice (now it’s pick-up only), Italian once (not as healthy but fresh & super tasty), and Chipotle this week. I’m avoiding fast food places that would admittedly be cheaper but are also unhealthy.
For next week I’m looking at a local Mexican restaurant that initially closed for the shutdown but has just reopened for delivery or pick-up. I doubt they anticipated the shutdown lasting so long when they closed.
For the house, we had pressure washing done and we just had mulch delivered in anticipation of yard work this weekend.
March 17th, 2020 at 01:30 pm
The company has sent a memo that there will be no compensation increases this year. It’s disappointing for sure but understandable given the uncertainty of the economy. Now I know for planning purposes to count on my current minimum income.
We had a fun Monopoly game night last night after corn chowder for dinner which was a hit too.
Our state just closed bars and restaurants.
March 4th, 2020 at 01:07 pm
Last night DS1 finally made the time to come over to create a budget. I have been nagging him so his participation was somewhat reluctant. I asked him to bring his laptop and I started him with an Excel workbook that I created with sample categories populated. I preached my truth about budgets not being restrictive but instead giving control so the funds are allocated to the things we believe to be most important in our lives.
I am cautiously optimistic that the session was effective! He adjusted the categories and evaluated different scenarios just like I do sometimes. The spreadsheet is basic but it calculates totals by month, by category, and year-to-date. He got excited about having a vacation fund and an entertainment category. Once he had the budget balanced to nearly align with his minimum pay, he downgraded his Netflix membership, downgraded his health club membership, and deleted a Doordash app from his phone. I didn’t suggest any of those things!
He created a category for health insurance premiums so he doesn’t forget but the budgeted amount is zero for this year since he can remain on our health insurance plan through December. We also talked about removing comprehensive auto insurance coverage to lower his premiums once he gets his financed 2007 vehicle paid off which he said will happen by summer.
We’ve planned another session on Easter day when he’ll be home to open an HSA account with Fidelity and a Roth IRA account with Vanguard. He’s got budgeted amounts ready to auto-transfer once he gets those accounts established. Before then he’s going to open a savings account at a different bank than his checking for his soon-to-be EF.
My justification for being so assertive in getting him to sit down and work a budget was that I wanted to make sure he paid back his loans to me. That’s what I told him to make him feel obligated to meet. And that is indeed a category in his budget. But my motive was broader – I wanted him to be empowered, to feel like he controlled his finances. I’m hopeful. He did seem to own it by the time we finished. We’ll see how it goes. I think I’ll e-mail some links to blogs with budgets every few days so he can compare his with others. I know I always find that an interesting exercise.
February 18th, 2020 at 10:18 pm
I can see that our federal tax refund is expected to be direct-deposited in two days. We’re getting $2606 back this year which means I had too much withheld, but next year we’ll lose $3500 in child/dependent tax credits so I’ll need to adjust withholding to prevent owing a thousand bucks, assuming all other things are equal this year. I’ll take a closer look at that during the summer after I know whether there is any increase in income and after I take some time to research any tax code changes that could impact us.
Of course the $2606 is allocated. I budgeted $900 for our annual CSA membership and the rest to the 0% CC. I over-budgeted slightly for the CSA and I also got a discount for paying it early and in full instead of using a payment plan. It was $815. That’s a ‘full share’ size box of organic veggies every week from April 22nd week to the week before Christmas.
The local delivery site is easily walkable from my house so on veggie day I block an hour in my work schedule to leave my desk and go pick them up. I like having the commitment because it insures that I get exercise and fresh air that day. I bought a used stroller at a garage sale last year just for this purpose because the bag of veggies gets heavy in the middle of the summer.
Now that I have the juicer, I may try juicing some things this year. And by the way, I’m loving the juicer! My favorite so far is carrot-apple with a little raw ginger.
February 3rd, 2020 at 01:07 pm
CB's recent blog entry (January Recap) made me think about restaurant expenses.
Sometimes we eat out because it's convenient or because I didn't plan well. For those occasions of course I'd like to minimize our restaurant spending. But as CB points out in her blog entry, sometimes restaurant meals are important times spent with those close to us. We wouldn’t want to stop or reduce the frequency of those occasions. Or replace them with the dollar menu at a fast food place. But the two situations are both captured in that one budget category - at least for us. Since I keep a spreadsheet of our actual spending, I went back to 2019 to see how much of our restaurant spending was quality time spent with family.
So last year we spent a total of $3172 for meals out. [It’s okay to gasp if you need to…it is indeed a lot of money.] Of that total, $1300 (even) was spent on family celebrations at restaurants. We have a tradition of eating out on each boy’s birthday and the birthday boy gets to select the place. [The twins have to agree though because we only do one meal out in their honor.] In 2019 we also went out for Father’s Day. The most expensive meal out was in honor of DS1’s college graduation and it included 3 people beyond our immediate family. It was the nicest restaurant our kids have ever experienced. So no regrets on the $1300 total spent here.
DS3 is a competitive athlete and we travel to tournaments for him. Sometimes the tournaments are close enough to drive back and forth but usually they aren’t. So it involves a hotel and meals out when we go. It’s just the two of us and I do select hotels that have breakfast included and a kitchen with the room so we can do minor cooking. In 2019, we spent $682 on restaurant food during tournaments. I include the hotel expenses in my ‘kids activities’ budget category, so this amount is just the food. This is a grey area. On one hand I don’t want to overspend on meals out when we travel, but I do want to support DS3’s talent and passion. Maybe $682 is okay.
That leaves $1190 worth of meals that were not family celebrations or travel-related. A grand of that is probably Subway – we keep that place in business. This is where it’d be best to scrutinize. In addition to just planning better maybe I could choose a couple of healthy and inexpensive go-to meals in the Instapot cookbook that the boys like and keep the ingredients on-hand. Then the meal would be just as quick to make as a trip to the too-nearby Subway.