July Goal Update!

Goal: Train for and run the following races: Jaeger Run for Pride, Dash for Donation, Emerald City quarter marathon, and the half at the Columbus Marathon.
Status: Successfully ran the Jaeger Run for Pride.  Race recap is here.  I actually don’t know if I’ll get to the Dash for Donation because of my new work schedule.  I already registered for it, unfortunately.  We’ll see if I can work something out. I am also considering the 5 or 10k at the Giant Eagle MultiSport Festival, but I haven’t decided yet.

Goal: Strength train 3x a week.
Status: I win this time! I win! I officially went back to the gym a week ago today. So I was in Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  That’s four days of strength training, including one day with my trainer.  I also did cardio all of those days, sometimes once at the gym and a short run later in the day. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to be lifting heavy things again.  I started out light, but I am already making progress.  I am also more actively using Fitocracy… find me here.  I am still a little frustrated that I can’t log everything I do because they don’t list all of my exercises.  All of that is besides the point: GOAL ACCOMPLISHED, at least for this past week.

Goal: Write every day.
Status: Ugh. At least I’ve been reading more…

Goal: Read at least one book a month.
Status: I finished  Storm of Swords in record time.  The last A Song of Ice and Fire book took me forever to read.  It was like slogging through a nightmare of awful things happening.  This third book still had awful things (give up all hope for anyone you ever liked), but it went a lot faster. Once finishing that, I started The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I have seen part of the movie, but would like to read it before finishing the rest.  So far, so good.

Goal: Budget! Budget! Budget!
Status:  Because of my recent job changes, I have worked extra hard to stay on top of my budget. I didn’t do too badly in June, really.  I overdid it a little with the purchase of my new running shoes and some other miscellaneous clothing that I needed, but other than that, I have ended up in a pretty good spot.  If I made no income for July, I could still pay my bills and buy groceries, etc without dipping into my savings, so I think I’m not in bad shape at all.  Any income I make will be helpful and relieve stress, but at least I know I can do it regardless.

I will say also about budgeting that I think I have made a small breakthrough thanks to YNAB (who, by the way, came out with a new version that is AWESOME). I took another one of their free classes and it really got my brain on the right track, as in: look at the budget first. Thanks, YNAB!

Goal: Try something new once a month.
Status:  So for June, I quit my job.  I am coming up on the end of my two weeks of summer FUNemployment, which is a sad thing.  I am onto bigger and better things though, so I am super excited about that.

Goal: Gratitude.
Status: Did a little bit better. If you’ve been following my Twitter at all, you may have seen some #gratitudeproject tweets pop up.  I was especially grateful for my family and friends and all their support.  It has been really awesome.  I am going to continue with this goal since I think it’s been helping my outlook on life.

Goal: Actively work to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Status: This links directly into gratitude, I think.  Since I’m starting a new job and starting school next month, I think that it’s time to get myself mentally prepared for the coming inevitable ups and downs.  I was so long in a bad situation that I need to make sure that I’m going into the new ones with a good attitude.

Here’s to July!

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Something New: April – Recap

So April’s something new started with this post about trying to live off of my income three years ago.  I posted another blog entry about halfway through the month. I was already struggling with it at that point.

I had the most problems with bills, doctor visits, and surprise expenses.  Because I have more bills, my rent is higher, etc, more money went to those things.  So when Thor had to go to the vet, it would have been impossible for me to pay for it if I kept within my 2009 budget. By the end of the month, I was really just trying to spend as a little as possible in an attempt to get in under the wire on my goal.  I didn’t make it.

I did, however, learn some things to stay better on track.

  • I can still use the budget I might have used back in 2009 for things that vary like groceries, care items, etc.  It can save a lot of money to put a tight cap on how much you’re going to use for those things.
  • Pay in cash.  I kept a card around in case I absolutely had to use it, but if you only take enough cash out to get you through x number of days or through specific errands, you really have to stay with what you have.  I guess that’s only if you have the willpower to do so.
  • Take your limits seriously.  If you are always telling yourself in the back of your mind that you have a safety net, you might never get serious about staying within a budget.  At least, that’s one of my problems. Doing this helped me to really stay focused on the goal even if I didn’t meet it.

So it wasn’t an entirely lost cause.  I got more comfortable with budgeting and YNAB in general.  I also learned that I can mostly live on a smaller income than I have currently, but it would take some real discipline. I am hoping to get better at that discipline.  More discipline = more money saved!

Something New: April – The Halfway Point

We’re officially about halfway through the month, so why not a little update? If you missed my initial post on this goal, please go here. The nutshell: live off of what I was making three years ago.

So how is it going? Not well. Since this is a public site, I don’t want to go too in detail about money and income. It takes away some of the impact, but it makes me feel a little more at ease. I haven’t talked to many people about this plan, but my boyfriend didn’t think it was going to work. He was right, as he so often is.

The problem so far? Things that are not 2009-friendly: Gas was cheaper, I didn’t have prescriptions to buy or specialists/physical therapists to see, etc. I didn’t even include some of my now-normal expenses into this budget.  I also have to admit that I got pretty discouraged part of the way through and probably didn’t include everything in my spending that I should have. This is where I need to get better at tracking things.

The next couple of weeks will be the real test. As rent is the biggest bill and that will have been paid, the second two weeks of the month will have slightly more money. If I was living this budget month to month, this extra cash could be used in the first two weeks of the next month to balance out spending. I’m going to see if I can spend less to make up for the more already spent, if that makes sense.  So maybe overall for the month, I can come down to even.  Let’s hope!

I’m hoping I have also figured out a way to simplify things. I was actually working off of two separate budgets in YNAB, but I have since transferred it all to one budget and just adjusted things around so that my 2009 allowances are factored into the appropriate categories. I know, I know. I really made it way more difficult than I needed it to be.  And, of course, I am kind of geeking out about my budget since I just took one of the YNAB classes and found it really helpful.  I have actually completely revamped how I was doing things and feel like I’m on a better path overall.

Next two weeks, here I come!

Something New: In the Works – April

So I’ve decided already what April’s something new is and I’m so excited about it that I have to share it now.

I have struggled with money for a lot of my adult life.  I have found myself in a lot of problematic scenarios and in a lot of financial holes.  I’ve never been very good at budgeting and I can’t say I’m awesome at conservative spending.  I have only just recently landed in an income position that has allowed me to live life in a generally comfortable sort of way and I am very thankful for that.  My comfortable and your comfortable might be different. My comfortable is still having a little money in the bank and being able to put some aside in savings every paycheck.  I don’t buy extravagant things very often, but I do have the problem of buying a lot of little things.

A couple of things have added to my problem:

  • Taking up running and working out in general has really put a damper on my cash since I had nothing for those activities when I started. Now I pay a gym membership and worry about appropriate clothing, etc.  Over the winter I was purchasing a base of winter gear and now I am trying to have appropriate hot weather gear.  Seems silly, really, when it’s an activity that you could do barefoot in any clothing.  Now I have compression sleeves and hydration belts. What?
  • I stopped buying cheap food. Seems like a silly thing also, but once my income started increasing, so did the amount I was spending on food.  I think it probably has something to do with age also: I don’t buy pizza rolls or hot pockets like I used to. I switched to buying more organic and overall better for you kinds of things.  While I do try to stay on the cheaper side, I can’t say I am not a sucker when I go to the grocery on an empty stomach.
  • The acquiring of an iPhone and iPad has meant buying more iThings. I have tapered off a lot, but it’s still just far too easy to pull up iTunes and buy an album or think “I need an app for that” and then purchase one that’s “only $1!” That stuff adds up.  I also buy more books now since that’s one of the main reasons for owning the iPad, not a bad thing really, but not nice on the wallet either.

There are other factors, of course.  I have a student loan payment that I didn’t used to have.  I’ve spent money on a personal trainer on and off over the year.  I’ve had a lot of medical bills in the past year from MRIs, physical therapy, surgery, etc. I am really thankful that I’ve been able to keep up on all of this and not fall into my old spending holes.

However, I think there are problems with what I’ve been doing and I want to fix them.  Sometimes I’m really good about my budget and sometimes I just let a little too loose.  I don’t find myself in trouble necessarily, but I don’t like what I’m doing either.  I really enjoy using YNAB for money purposes, but I am not using their method very well (and it’s a good one, so I really should!). So, my something new for April is going to be spending on the income I had three years ago. If I was good at math, I’d tell you the percentages, but I’m not. Let’s just say that if I was living on the same income now as I did three years ago and with the same bills, I would have less than half of what I do now in “disposable” income.

What am I including in disposable income? For the purposes of this exercise, it’s anything that isn’t a set bill.  For bills, I am not including my gym membership or savings, but I am including my student loan, car insurance, phone, electric, etc. So disposable is going to have to cover groceries, gas, eating out, care products, and miscellaneous. There are going to be some exceptions to this because of some of the things happening in April, like my boyfriend’s birthday and my trip to Kansas City to see my stepbrother. Those things are going to come out of my usual income, not the income I’m using for April’s Live Like It’s 2009 Budget.  I will take “emergencies” as they come (and hopefully there won’t be any). Seems fair enough, really.

I am actually really excited about this despite the fact that it’s going to be a little tough. Between now and the 1st, I’m going to spend some time in YNAB trying to create something that will work for my new limits.  I also think that if I can successfully do this, I will probably reward myself somehow.  Almost all the “excess” money is going to go into savings, which will be it’s own reward.  But maybe I’ll use some of it to donate to a charity, or maybe I’ll put some away in an IRA. I’ll see what happens. A reward that will keep rewarding is a nice idea.

So come on, April 1st!

Side note: While we’re speaking of money, have I mentioned how much I love Get Rich Slowly?  The post from today was pretty awesome: This I Believe: 43 Lessons from 43 years. Nice little motivator.