Sunday, November 23, 2008

Four Months: Savings Categorized in Excel

It's been four months since Mr. Honey and I had our first appointment with a personal financial coach, and began anew to chip away at our debt. As of this week, we have paid off approximately $4,200. That leaves around $12,500 to go on credit cards.

Update: That looks so funny-- what I mean to say is that we still have to pay off $12,500 in credit card debt.

This month we celebrated three birthdays-- Triss' and Mariel's birthdays occurred the same week as my great-aunt's funeral and kind of got lost until October, and Cornflower's birthday is at the beginning of November. It was tough to insist that we were only spending $30 on each birthday, but we must have been parental enough, because they didn't give us a hard time about it (actually, we have really sweet kids). Each girl got to decide what she would do for her birthday, within that limit, and both Mariel and Cornflower decided to have one friend over for a sleepover with homemade pizza and a movie and birthday cake. (An unexpected perk: because they limited their celebrations to one friend apiece, we were able to give nice goody bags and individual attention to the friends.) Triss blessed the hearts of her father and I by requesting that we spend the evening out with just her for her birthday.

We went through the kids' winter clothing this month, passing down items and giving away things that don't fit any of the girls. We managed to come out pretty well-- we only had to purchase one coat! (We get hand-me-downs from generous friends.) We will most likely need to purchase another one come January, as well as a couple of pairs of jeans, the way these girls are growing, but we will have enough money in the clothing bucket by then.

The 'buckets' are my favorite part of our new way of keeping track of things. We have two savings accounts-- the emergency fund and the short-term savings. Our emergency fund has the $1,000, and the short-term savings has everything else. We have an Excel spreadsheet for the short-term savings, divided into categories:

Car repairs
House repairs

Back in July, we figured out the amount we must spend in each category per year, and divided by 12 to come up with the monthly deposit in each category.

An aside: When we first attended Financial Peace University three years ago (yes, we went to classes, and we still crashed and burned-- we really did need a personal coach), I was sure we didn't have a Nerd in our family. I thought we must both be Free Spirits. But, as you can see, once I learned Excel, I realized and embraced my Nerdy tendencies. I am living proof that you can be a Nerd, and still have trouble balancing a checkbook.

We purchased Triss' and Cornflower's Christmas gifts in the last week, and now only have Mariel to buy for. We have put a strict limit on Christmas spending just like we did with the birthdays. Our coach recommended we get gifts only for the children this year, and give everyone else a nice card. :deep breath: This is really going to challenge my pride. Just thought you'd like to know.

Anyway, we knew how much we could spend on the kids' Christmas ahead of time, and already had the money in the Gift bucket, so when opportunities presented themselves, I was able to move on them. So exciting! Mariel's present is forthcoming, as soon as Mr. Honey finds the deal he is looking for.

This year, we planned and had money in our account for Christmas. What a concept. Why didn't we do this before? I know why-- because whenever we would put a little away for Christmas or birthdays, we would have another need-- car repair, or clothing, or doctor visits, etc.

We have had similar occurrences this fall, but since we divided short-term savings into categories, and predetermined the amount to deposit in each per month, the car repairs and medical needs haven't derailed our Christmas budget. That Excel spreadsheet is my friend.

(Our van is in need of more repairs, too. I am taking it to the shop in the morning for new brake pads.)

On the downside, we had to pay an 'excessive activity fee' on our short-term savings account this month, because I was transferring money online rather than at the bank branch. By federal law our savings account is only allowed six transactions per month via Internet, telephone or checks. ATM or bank branch transactions are unlimited. We had to pay $10 for not reading the fine print.

But, all in all, it was a good month.

1 comment:

TeacherBritt said...

What a HUGE praise! Your diligence and good stewardship is inspiring! Keep up the good work! Oh, and we need to get the girls together soon... :)-