I’m As Optimized As I’m Going to Get (for now)

So for those of you who don’t follow my twitter, some of the random budget angst from last week turned out to be a little premature. Turns out — ha ha! — I had accidentally hidden a category in YNAB, which happened to have $250 in it, so when I found it I relaxed some and also moved the $$ into my down payment fund, which now stands at $5250. I’ll just have to hustle back the $750 that went into my Roth IRA last week to make it back to the $6000 it was at.

Wait a minute, why hustle?

Continue reading “I’m As Optimized As I’m Going to Get (for now)”

Net Worth Update, September 2015, & Q3 goals checkin

networthupdateHi everyone! Obviously I’ve been pretty absent lately — I’ve been trying to read and comment on others’ blogs as I have time, but mostly I just haven’t had the energy, let alone to post myself. Nothing bad is going on. It’s just been a very busy season at work, plus I’ve ramped up a couple of volunteer activities (yesterday, which might have been a prime time to write a post, I was at one of those from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm) and the end result is that I’ve been busy plus, when I get home, exhausted. I’ve rarely had energy to do much other than fall into bed with a book.

However, I miss blogging, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to get back into the swing of things a little bit more this month. I have a food post planned for Wednesday (hint: black bean soup with garlic and tomatoes), and I have a few other ideas for posts too. First, however, the depressing September net worth update. To the numbers! Continue reading “Net Worth Update, September 2015, & Q3 goals checkin”

Talk Me Out of It (or, what do you spend on your house?)

I’m starting to get cold feet about the whole homeownership idea. (No new developments on the job front, so I’m still not sure whether or not this is a real question, but it’s sure on my mind a fair amount. I’m going to keep calling it a semi-hypothetical.)

The thing is, both everything I read online and my experience of watching my parents have a house indicates to me that it’s way more expensive than it sounds. Just because the mortgage payment says $450 a month doesn’t mean those are your actual costs…. it all makes keeping my $400-with-utilities-included rented room indefinitely sound pretty good.

But I’m having a hard time putting actual figures to this. Based on what a friend of mine spends, I’m guessing $750-800 a month for mortgage, taxes, insurance, and utilities. That’s perfectly doable for me, especially since if I did take a permanent job here it would come with a substantial salary bump. (I also would prefer to have a housemate, so that would help financially, but I’d rather not assume/depend I’d have someone every single month; I want to be able to afford it on my own and have rent be a nice extra.)

And I know closing costs are expensive, but let’s assume those are covered.

What I’m really having trouble imagining are the other “carrying costs” of a house. Those of you who are homeowners, how much do you set aside every month for things like the new roof or the boiler blowing up or the plumber having to remove your kid’s Barbie from an inconvenient pipe? In other words, what goes in your house maintenance fund? What have you had to spend on as a homeowner that you never imagined?

I think I might also have to budget for snow removal, especially if I get a house without a garage….

Y’know, maybe I’ll just stick with the rented room and get a new car, or a dog. Or a new car and a dog.

Where Does My Paycheck Go?

[I’m traveling for work this week, so this post is pre-scheduled. Responses to comments might be a bit slow. Hopefully by the time you read this, I will be enjoying good weather and not inventing new ways to spend money.]

I got oddly fascinated by the breakdown of my paystub the other day. Sometimes I feel like no sooner do I get paid, than it’s all gone, you know? So, I decided to do a little math. In a standard half-month period (I get paid twice a month), here’s what happens to my paycheck:

  • 10% goes to income taxes (6.6% federal, 2.3% state, and 1.2% county — state/local taxes are way lower here than they were in my previous two jobs)
  • 7.4% goes to FICA (6% Social Security and 1.4% Medicare — interesting, I would have guessed Medicare ate up more of my paycheck than that.)
  • 2.6% goes to health insurance premiums (medical, dental, eyesight).
  • 25% goes to retirement savings

At this point we are up to 45% that disappears from my paycheck before I ever see it! No wonder I feel like it all goes so fast!

The other 55% gets direct-deposited, and that’s what I work with for my actual budget, so at this point I moved away from the paystub and looked at my budget and did more math.

  • 22% goes to various savings accounts (emergency, travel, down payment) — now I’m down to only 33%.
  • 10.7% goes to rent and utilities
  • 7.5% goes to cash for groceries and so on
  • 2.5% goes to transportation (car insurance, gas)

That’s a total of 20.7% for essential monthly expenses, so after all’s said and done I have just 12.3% of my paycheck for spending money and things like medical care, car repairs, clothing and so on. I usually put 2.5% in my slush/free spending account, so there’s just under 10% available for the other stuff.

I actually can’t tell whether that’s a lot, or a little. If anyone feels like doing some similar math, I’d love to know where you’re at.

Being Thrifty and Eating Right in New York Was Really, Really Hard

So I’ve lost a little weight recently — not a ton, maybe five pounds — and I was thinking today about why that never happened in New York, when I was younger and also probably getting more exercise (just from walking around more.) Also, as you may have noticed, I’m a lot better at sticking to a budget and saving money now than I used to be 🙂 And I think the two things are actually interconnected, not just in the way that financial and weight metaphors often work together, but because the pattern of living in New York is practically designed to disrupt weight control and money control.

Continue reading “Being Thrifty and Eating Right in New York Was Really, Really Hard”

How much “blow money” do you budget, and why?

As I try to make up for March’s unexpected expenditures, I’ve been pretty cheap this month. I’ve been trying to mostly stick to my $300 cash draw — I even went to Chicago for the weekend and funded it entirely out of my monthly cash. So far, if I don’t go crazy and break out the credit card over the next two weeks but just use the remaining $100 in cash that I have, I’m on track to spend less than $1000 this month! (Right now, with all the bills paid and a full tank of gas, I’m at $952 for April. And yes, that includes rent.)

Continue reading “How much “blow money” do you budget, and why?”

Long-range financial goal setting

I did a thought exercise the other day: where do I want to be in terms of finances and possessions in ten years? In thirty years, when I’m 66? I have some possible retirement housing options in mind, but I also want to think about how to get to a point where I have $40,000 in yearly income (in today’s dollars). That plus Social Security should give me a very comfortable life; right now I’m only spending about $17000 a year on life stuff! Add to that $10000 a year for travel and general fun, and I’ll be all set. 🙂 (The rest is for taxes and medical care, of course, and also because I assume I will not end up paying the equivalent of $400 a month for housing forever.) Continue reading “Long-range financial goal setting”

March 2015 Net Worth Update & Q1 Update

networthupdateMan oh man, March came in like a lamb and roared out like a lion, financially speaking! My February update was, in retrospect, remarkably blasé about my prospects for March — I was confidently predicting I’d shoot past my $20K net worth goal. Uh, not so much.

Regular readers will recall, because, you know, I just talked about it last week, that I had a major setback in March, to the tune of [OH GOD HOW MUCH?!?!] for last-minute plane tickets. This included the original cost of tickets, plus a substantial stupidity tax related to having to make even more last-minute changes when I realized I’d book the wrong date [every time I mention this, a sad accordian goes “womp womp WOMPPPPPP” in my head, like I have a TV music soundtrack to my thought process.]

However, mama said there’d be months like this, and like I said last week, you know, things are actually OK. I kept up my e-fund and retirement contributions, so at least the basics got taken care of, you know? Continue reading “March 2015 Net Worth Update & Q1 Update”

The Bare Bones Budget + How Big of an E-Fund Do I Need, Part 898678050

I feel like I just keep circling back around to this topic! For a while last year I was wondering if I needed an e-fund at all — after all, I have no dependents to provide for and if financial disaster really struck, I’d be able to give up my housing (which is just a rented room with no lease to break) and move in with friends or family. Everyone shouted me down on that, and I was convinced 🙂 [Side note: at that time, five comments was a huge number on one of my posts. On a day to day basis I don’t feel like I’ve made huge progress at growing the blog, but looking back at those early posts they look so lonely! Thanks for reading and commenting, y’all, every single one of you makes my day.] Continue reading “The Bare Bones Budget + How Big of an E-Fund Do I Need, Part 898678050”