Thursday, February 07, 2008

Goal #1

I know I haven't been blogging a lot, guys. But things are pretty calm around here, lately. CN is great. My friends are great (except that I miss KT). My job is busier than usual (which is actually a good thing, trust me!). Even Sammy is great.

So what have I been doing with my free time? Where have I been? Working towards my goals. I have come to the realization that unless you put a date and a number on a goal, there's hardly any point in starting it in the first place. Otherwise, how do you know when you've reached it? So here is my first goal:

GOAL #1:I want to work out a monthly budget I can live with and stick to. I want to learn how to make my money work for me instead of against me. By the end of the year, I want to pay off at least $1,000 in credit card debt AND save at least $1,000 in my savings account. As a short-term goal, I do not want to use my credit card to pay for my cruise (which will be a minimum of $500). I am tired of being stressed out about money. I am tired of saying that I am not good with money. I am tired of panicking about money. It's time for an overhaul in the way I think about money and spending.

And now that I have just spilled all of this on my blog, I am hoping that it will make me more accountable and the potential humiliation of not reaching my goals will motivate me further!

So what am I doing to reach Goal #1? What have I learned so far?

*I have Microsoft Money on my computer, and I'm learning how to use it. It is making me really think about all the different ways I spend money. It's more than just thinking about your last spree at the mall. (Yes, I am that dumb with money! I just assume my financial woes are a result of the mall!) I have kept every single receipt since January 17th, and I've been calculating where my money goes. To the penny. Complete with pie charts. It has been very enlightening!

Lesson: Ignorance is not bliss. Knowledge is power.

*It turns out, most of it is going in my mouth. Yeah. My grocery bills? Totally out of control! I think that since you HAVE to eat, I have been letting myself go crazy at Wal-Mart. That was how I would justify it. I was basically letting myself get whatever I wanted. So now, I am limited to ONE trip a week, and I cannot spend more than $50. This includes things like shampoo, toothpaste, Windex, etc. So I am forcing myself to prioritize and plan ahead. Like a real grown-up! So far, so good -- I came in $2.33 under budget for groceries this week! Not great, but it's a start.

Lesson: Planning ahead and prioritizing can help you save money. Also, give yourself credit, even for reaching small goals.

*I also realized that Target, as much as I love it, is budget suicide for me. Target is to my budget as brownies are to my diet. It is physically impossible for me to spend less than $35 whenever I walk through the door, just like it is impossible for me to say "no" to a brownie. So you know what? I haven't been to Target. In a MONTH. Yeah. I think that is a record. The longer I'm away from Target, the fewer reasons I can find to go back. And since I hate making a special trip to any store just to get one item, I don't know when I'll go to Target again!

Lesson: Know your weakness and avoid it.

*I canceled my garbage service. I live close enough to the public dump that I can take my garbage there myself. (Reality: CN will probably end up taking it to the dump for me, because he rocks like that.) This will save me about $13 a month.

Lesson: Unnecessary expenses can be more than just dining out and shopping. Look for less-obvious ways to cut your budget. Also, every penny counts.

*Thanks to my newer, more fuel-efficient car, I am already saving money on gas. I have gone from spending about $40 a week to about $28 every ten days. Woo hoo!!

Lesson: a more fuel-efficient car, I guess.

*Since my 0% interest rate on my Visa just ended, I am going to transfer the balance (along with the balance on my American Express) to a new one. It has 0% interest until March 2009. Then, I can watch that balance drop!!!

Lesson: Don't be stupid. Interest rates do not benefit you in any way whatsoever. Stop pretending they don't exist, and do something about it.

*I'm going to my bank to tell them to start taking $50 out of my paycheck every month and putting it into savings for me.

Lesson: If you are dumb with money, find people who can save it for you. If you behave like a child, you have to treat yourself like one.

*I am thinking about putting all my spending money into cash every month. That way, it will feel more "real" than just swiping a piece of plastic. Any leftover will go into savings. In theory. But first, I have to figure out exactly how much spending money I have to start with. That's where the Money program comes in.

Lesson: Always try for new, responsible ways to hold yourself accountable. Keep trying new things until you find something that works for you.

* Now, if only I could find the time to really sit down and get the stupid Microsoft Money software to work. I am having trouble with some of the features. I got a how-to book. It's just a matter of finding the time to sit down and learn the software better.

Lesson: Make time to learn how to reach your goals. You have to prioritize them or else you will never meet them.

*Before anyone jumps in with recommendations for Quicken and how awesome it is, let me just state this: Money was already installed on my computer, so it was free. And since "free" is my new favorite word, I am not going to worry about Quicken right now.

Lesson: "Free" is usually better when it comes to financial matters.

Instead, I will look forward to paying my taxes and getting my big phatty refund!!! Word on the streets is that we are getting property tax refunds, too, so I might get more money on top of my tax refund. WOOT!!! I will put the tax refund towards my credit card debt and the property tax refund towards my cruise.

Lesson: Buying a house will actually MAKE you money in the long run. Also, do not blow your tax refunds on crap. Utilize the windfall in a way that will benefit your overall financial situation.

Alright. So that is my progress on the Money Goal. I still have a looooong way to go, but so far, so good. I'm kind of proud of myself already. It feels good just to grab the reins and take control, you know?

Do you have any budget/money advice for me? Do you have any ideas? Opinions? Tales of Warning? Please share! I need help, obviously...

Stay tuned for Goal #2....


Alison said...

I'm impressed! I feel like I could save a lot more money if I had my "spending" money in cash too. It's so easy to spend away when you're using a debit card for everything. I have the same problem as you, much do I allot myself for spending each month? You've inspired me to sit down and figure that one out.

Stuck said...

Money management is the next big project in my Renaissance, but I'm putting it on hold while I get used to spending money on Strutter. Women are money pits. :)

Coco said...

Wow, good for you chica. Very responsible goals. I have suffered with the same problems for years... to resolve them I recently:
Got a second job, so I don't have to feel so "freaked out" at the end of every month . . .
cut out things like Netflix and internet access at home . . .
got a fixed payment line of credit and paid off all my credit cards (the total monthly payment being lower than the combined minimums on those cards, and with an actual end date in sight!).
My next goal is to, at some point: 1) have enough 'extra' to be able to start saving
2) buy a house, so I can actually own something that has value

Smug said...

Get the Women and Money book on CD from the library! It changed my life and listening to it saved me time while I was driving to and from work. She breaks things down so that they are really simple to understand. She talks about what your financial goals should be and ways to work toward them. She explains things like what a credit rating is and why having a will isn't enough.

I am very proud of you for taking control like this! I have to say that I have become really attached to my money and I weigh every purchase against some financial goal or another!!

Also, I think that you are past this point, but you should remember that you draw to yourself the things that you focus on. If you focus contstantly on how you are so bad with money, then you will be bad with money. Start spending your energy thinking about how good with money you are (not going to be... ARE). You are totally on the right track with this one!!

RWA said...

My goodness. Looks like you have covered pretty much everything.

I hope this works.

Jonathan Zero said...

Excellent goals. I had to do exactly what you are doing. Create a budget and stick to it. For me impulse buying would always get me. My friends and I also used to talk about the Walmart $30, not being able to get out of there without spending at least that much. Not it can be $50 so I just do not go. My goal last year was to go to England and I saved and then I went. Took me all year but it was worth plus I have money left over for my next trip or to put on a down payment for a house. Anyway, not about me but it really sounds like you have a plan. The important thing is to find something that works for you.

teahouse said...

Hey, it's awesome that you are taking hold of your finances. I'm doing the same. I've been trying to cut back on those stupid trips to Starbucks..those $4 and $5 lattes and frappuccinos really add up after a while!

* meish * said...

You have inspired me to sit down and take a look at my money situation. I have totally blown off my budget and I am starting to feel the pain!

Try reading "Your Money or Your Life" by Joseph R. Dominguez. It's an interesting perspective on how to view money and take control of it so it doesn't control your life!