Let's take a look at how I did in December.
This is the money I had available for the month.
Wages - my take home pay was $0.50 more than expected.
Transfers In - higher than expected. This will happen any time there is a sinking fund expense I did not know about at the time I did my monthly budget.
Buffer - starting balance in checking on 12/1/19.
Other - I have a $200 loan out to a friend which I had expected to be paid in full in December. With my approval, only $60 was repaid; the remaining $140 is to be repaid in January. I received $37 in secret shop fees, and $0.01 of interest on checking.
This is the cash I withdraw each payday to cover groceries, gas, personal (hair cuts, meals out, anything I decide I want) and miscellaneous needs (shampoo, hygiene products, vitamins, etc.). If I have at least $20 left in a category, I reduce the next withdrawal by $20. As you can see, I was able to spend less than budgeted in both personal and miscellaneous.
These are my regular monthly bills. Very few surprises here. The phone category is both my monthly Verizon prepaid bill which is fixed at $52.75 and my mom's monthly Ting bill which is variable. Mom's bill was $17.35 this month.
Sinking funds. Deposits mostly went as planned, with the exception of a $1 deposit to open Bella's sinking fund. The bi-weekly transfers happen every other Tuesday. Because of the way the days fell in December, there were 3 transfers this month.
Withdrawals from car ins & reg include $947.26 to pay my 6 month premium due 12/4/19, and $188.64 which I had determined was in excess of what is needed (went to debt repayment).
Withdrawals from gifts/xmas included 1 birthday gift and 3 Xmas gifts.
Withdrawals from travel/vacation to cover half of the gas cost for towing our travel trailer to my mom's at Thanksgiving and my niece's at Christmas. SB pays the other half.
This section is everything not included above; some items were budgeted some items were not.
Movies - over Thanksgiving weekend, my son and daughter-in-law and SB and I went to see a movie (Knives Out). When we decided to go, I bought the tickets online with my credit card (since I paid the charge in December, this item has ended up in December's budget). I entered the wrong amount ($41.80 instead of $47.80) but I just left it that way. My daughter-in-law Zelled me the money for their 2 tickets, and SB just gave me cash for his.
Bella flowers - These are large fabric flowers which attach to her collar and look so cute. I bought them on Amazon. There are a dozen in assorted colors and are washable. This is definitely just a want!
Bella vet - a visit to the vet regarding her re-occurring ear infection. We still had the eardrops left over from when they were prescribed 2 months prior so were charged only for the office visit.
McAfee - anti-virus software for 1 year for my laptop. I bought this on Black Friday and got a great deal. (with credit card, paid for in December).
ins-6 mo - 6 month insurance premium for my CR-V (daily driver) and 5th wheel. Sinking Fund transfer paid for this.
Gifts - Xmas and birthday gifts. Sinking Fund transfer paid for this.
Playing w FIRE - a documentary I have been waiting to see, purchased on Amazon.
fuel-trailer trips - My half of the fuel to haul our travel trailer over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sinking Fund transfer paid for this.
medical - out-of-pocket medical expense. My HCRA was depleted for 2019. I am very conservative with funding it, as any amount over $500 is forfeit at the end of the calendar year.
meal out - An unbudgeted (and quite naughty) meal out which went on my credit card. The rule is any meals out should come from my personal cash, so this should not have happened.
extra principal - extra principal to my 5th wheel loan.
Grand Total - perhaps I should re-name this. It is a net total; what is actually left in checking at the end of the month.
This area is just for me to calculate what I want to have left in checking, so I know to the penny how much I can send off to debt. I like to keep a buffer of 1k in checking. Additionally, since my pay dates vary, I need to think about what will happen before my first paycheck of the new month. My first paycheck in January will be on the 10th, but I have an automatic loan payment coming out on the 3rd. I am expecting to be repaid $140 this coming Friday, so can reduce my required balance accordingly.
As you can see from above, my target is $1267.58 but I have only $1266.79. I am short by $0.79. This shortage won't cause a problem, but I will be a bit more careful next month. I do like to hit my target to the penny.
Viewing the 'Budgeting' Category
Let's take a look at how I did in December.
Here is a new spreadsheet I have been working on. As you can see, it is a bit more detailed than the one I have used in the past. It is basically showing a summary of every transaction in my checking account for the month of November 2019.
So it begins with an area labeled "Income" and colored yellow. "Income" is a bit too narrow of a description, as it also includes money transferred in from other accounts as well the beginning balance of my checking account, labeled "Buffer". So a more accurate description would be "money I had to work with this month".
The second area is labeled "Cash" and is colored green. This is the cash I withdraw on paydays.
The third area is labeled "Fixed Expenses", is colored purple, and includes the monthly bills I am currently paying.
The fourth area is labeled "Sinking Funds" and is pinkish-red. This shows the money being tucked away into sinking funds. The area extends to the right to show a summary of the transactions in the particular sinking fund and its balance.
The fifth area labeled "Other" and colored blue is for transactions not included elsewhere. The yellow line on the bottom is a grand total.
And then the last section labeled "Checking" and colored green is the amount I need to leave in checking at the end of the month. Everything left in checking above that amount can be thrown at my current goal, which at this time is debt.
I'm liking this spreadsheet. It is pulling all of my current, relevant info together in one place.
For me, this was the deciding factor in how big a priority paying off the 5th wheel loan needs to be.
If I were to retire NOW, I calculate that I could draw $1,456 per month from my nest egg. Here is how that budget would look:
Everything I need, but not much fun. Without the 5th wheel loan payment, I could increase those sinking fund contributions and have more discretionary dollars. In short, my financial situation would be greatly improved.
Plus, I intend to cancel my life insurance policy once the 5th wheel loan is paid in full, freeing up a few dollars there as well. No one depends on my income any longer. However, in the event of my death, I would want SB to be able to have the 5th wheel free and clear. My children are both self-supporting and will inherit my investment and bank accounts.
So, I am happy with this plan. It makes sense to me.
I have been mulling over how I want to prioritize paying down my 5th wheel loan. Do I not fund my Roth? Do I cut my sinking funds? Do I cut my 457 plan contribution?
I have decided the answers are yes, yes, and no.
I calculate that in 24 months or sooner, I can get the balance down to where I can pay in full from savings. This is what I am going to do.
I have cut both my travel sinking fund and car replacement sinking fund contributions to $0. I have trimmed both my car r&m and car ins/reg sinking fund contributions slightly, but they should still be adequate. This brings my bi-weekly transfer to sinking funds from $380 to $230.
I will not fund my Roth IRA for now. I will leave my 457 plan contribution where it is, 10% of gross.
(I will still take the Panama Canal cruise with my mother. She is looking forward to it and I am not going to take that away from her. She is turning 87 next month, so who knows how much longer she will be able to travel. Currently, there is almost 4k in my travel sinking fund which will more than cover it.)
24 months from now, the 5th wheel loan balance should be under $16,962.08, the current balance in emergency fund + car replacement fund. At that point, I will use as much of them as needed to pay the loan in full. (But not sooner, as I don't want to be without them PLUS still have a loan payment to make). At that point, I will turn my focus to re-building savings.
Last night I thought, hey, why not check the shopper job boards and see if there are any secret shops around here I can do? (At one time, I did a fair amount of secret shopping, but it had been years since I had last done a shop). So I looked, and I found one for a bank just a few blocks from my workplace. I did the shop right after work tonight, submitted my report when I got home, and voila, I am expecting $20.
Here is my budget for November, a 3 paycheck month. Looking forward to a productive month:
I did (mostly) receive the past due rent. The money orders for March were dated March 1 and totalled $1215. So apparently, the tenant purchased the money orders, put them someplace, then thought he had mailed them. All of the info regarding what MoneyGram had told him was obviously fabricated. When I received them, I texted him to let him know I had received them then asked where he had found them. No response. No explanation as to why they were $35 short.
Yesterday I received June rent in full, but no additional $35.
Regarding paying for the cruise, I did lower my 457 plan contribution from 15% to 3%. I also changed my withholding from single 0 to single 1. The net result to my paycheck is an additional $214.02 per. All of this will go towards the cruise.
At the end of May, I had $630.80 saved. I have already purchased my daughter and son-in-law's airfare, and I have already paid $800 towards the cruise. So I still need to pay $4,370, which means I need to save $3,739.20 more.
My Mom and nephew came up here the Friday before Mother's Day and stayed (at the bed and breakfast in town) until Sunday afternoon. We had such a good time.
My birth mother is coming for a visit towards the end of July. She has a camper van so will stay right on the property with us. I will take some time off while she is here. I'm really looking forward to that.
My former father-in-law died about a month ago. I went down to the viewing (not the service) and did get to speak a bit with my former mother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew. The financial situation former m-i-l finds herself now in is not good. Various family members and friends helped contribute towards the modest yet tasteful final expenses. (F-i-l and m-i-l did have some money set aside for this, but it was not enough) I helped a little, as he was my children's grandfather. Despite the circumstances, it was nice to see all of them.
So I've been thinking about how exactly I am going to pay for that planned family cruise. I loathe the debt I am already carrying and am uninterested in carrying more.
After a great deal of consideration, I have decided to cut my 457 plan contributions from 15% to 3%. I will bank the extra take home pay and should have enough by January to pay in full. I need 7k to cover 5 fares, port taxes, gratuities, and air fare for 2. I have $1,356.25 in my travel/vacation fund right now, with 9 more $150 deposits budgeted for this year. That's $2700, I need another $4,300. I calculate I will take home an additional $2,808 this year from reducing 457 contributions. That still leaves $1500. I do have those 2 extra paycheck months. I think I can do it.
I think my retirement plans can withstand the hit. I am on track to surpass my minimum nest egg goal. This trip is very important to me. I will fill out the paperwork tomorrow and expect to see the extra take home pay beginning in May.
Finally tallied up March. Of course, I knew it was bad, having received no rent. The shortfall came from WF savings and checking buffer.
I took some of my overtime in pay and some in my comp time bank.
I did not need to pay AmEx anything after all; I had transferred the entire balance (I had remembered transferring balance - $100).
Unbudgeted includes a tank of gas for a trip to see my mom, one night hotel stay when a plumbing problem made sleeping in the travel trailer not such a good option, stocking up on a hair product I use called "silk drops", tax prep fee for my son and d-i-l (I just paid it, didnt even tell them), and some medical supplies from the pharmacy.
My car registration was due ($275) but I dont count that as it was paid from a sinking fund.
March budget is ready to go.
I applied and was approved for a new BofA MasterCard. The terms are 0% for 15 months, no balance transfer fee. I requested that $9300 of my existing $9400 AmEx balance be transferred. That leaves me with $100 to pay to AmEx in March, and then the minimum payment to the new MasterCard. I budgeted $100, but of course it might be more.
If the time comes I can no longer keep this debt at 0%, I will take a Heloc draw and finance it that way. Meanwhile, it is (oh so) slowly decreasing.
Nothing newsy here. SB and I continue to live our quiet little life in the woods; I continue to commute to the big town with 11k people and be gainfully employed.
Heres how it went in February.
Income - In addition to my one-time bonus, I received my federal and state income tax refunds. I filed with 1040.com this year.
Unbudgeted spending was mostly misc household items and medical supplies I picked up at Rite Aid (125.96). I bought two tickets for a community theater production (36.00), had to pay for a lost Netflix disc (15.02), paid to file my state tax return (4.95), and used up 2.76 of a 54.00 annual renewal for Allstate Motor Club. (I no longer need it).
So, all in all, not too bad. Im making progress towards my goal of building up my savings.