Being Grateful: Fifty-Fourth Edition

Being Grateful: 54th Edition - Journey to SavingHello everyone! Yet another week has gone by, and now there are only 19 days until Christmas. HOW did we get here already?!

Okay, enough about that, as I know no one likes those reminders. =)

Being Grateful for Good Customer Service

Here’s just one small reason I’m being grateful this week – when we went food shopping a few nights ago, we purchased something that should have been on sale. It was marked as such in the circular, but the actual price tags were a little misleading.

Sure enough, once we got our receipt, I noticed it was at full price. This was supposed to be a BOGO free deal, and the total was $9. I wasn’t about to pay that, so we brought our receipt to customer service.

The guy was so nice, and told us that for the price being incorrect, we would get both items for free. He put the $9 back on the card and we walked away happy.

Why can’t every customer service interaction go like that?!

Besides that, a Publix just opened nearby, and I guess they have a policy of doing everything for their customers. A guy emptied our cart, packed our bags, and wheeled the cart out to the parking lot. We felt bad/odd since, well, we’re young and perfectly capable of all of that. But it was still a nice gesture.

Being Grateful for Podcasts

This might seem like a weird one, but on a 3.5 hour drive to visit my parents, they come in handy! That’s about enough time to listen to 3, or 2 longish ones.

Don’t get me wrong, R and I usually enjoy talking to each other, and we have sometimes gone entire trips bouncing from topic to topic. However, there are times I’m just too tired, and would rather listen.

Some of my favorite podcasts are:

  • Shannon’s Martinis and Your Money. It’s always fun to listen to, and it’s also informative. I love the fact that she talks to bloggers most of us know and love, and it’s a treat to hear them outside of their blogs! That sounds weird, but Shannon asks great questions, so listen to it if you haven’t!
  • The Rooster Teeth Podcast I have to credit R with. He started listening to this a few months ago and kept raving about it. Originally, this had the name of “Drunk Tank,” and as you can see, all of them are marked explicit. There’s a lot of funny, immature humor involved, so it’s not for everyone. They do have some interesting discussions, and there’s been a few times where they’ve touched upon some PF topics! (Actually, the most recent says they discuss life insurance, ha.)
  • Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast is a classic. If you haven’t heard of Pat Flynn, you need to check him out. Now. He asks great questions to guests, and even in the podcasts where he’s alone, he provides a lot of value. It’s a must if you’re a blogger, or looking for side gig ideas.
  • Chris Ducker’s The New Business Podcast is similarly awesome – tons of great tips and tricks for those in the online marketing world. Plus, Chris is really funny.
  • Jeff Goins’ The Portfolio Life is also a good one, especially if you’re a writer or a creative. Jeff offers great insight in every episode and it always leaves you thinking.

I have a lot more, so if you need suggestions, just ask!

Being Grateful for Cats

I feel like I haven’t mentioned my cats in a while, so here you go. They’ve been really entertaining lately. Our little one is routinely chasing her tail around in circles, flipping around while doing so. Our older one has decided she actually likes her cat carrier, which is even more strange.

We took them with us on our last trip to my parents, and neither of them had a good time. It was so bad I almost considered turning back an hour into the drive.

Being grateful that my cats like their carriersThankfully, we all made it, and they were much better going back home. I think the problem was that we hadn’t sprayed the “cat calming spray” enough in the car and in their carriers. That stuff seriously works.

Since we knew they would be going back with us for Christmas, we decided to leave the carriers out in the living room. Our little one started staying in there first, and then our older one must have gotten jealous and wanted to prove she could do it, too. (Yes, I’ve made up a ‘sibling’ rivalry between them.)

I’m really grateful for this and hoping they develop a positive association with their carriers. I hate putting them through the drive, but I am not leaving them alone for five and a half days. Since it’s the week of Christmas, I also feel bad asking R’s co-worker (who lives in our complex) to check in on them.

Being Grateful for Our Current Situation

R had a surprise review (surprise insofar as he knew it would be happening at some point this month, not this soon), and unfortunately, there’s no money in his department’s budget for raises. For anyone.

It’s unclear at this point when he might get a raise. It’s unfortunate, as he was told in his interview they would give him a slight raise after 6 months.

Thankfully, R and I had been talking about his future with the company, and I told him to make it a point to ask about advancement opportunities. This way, his boss at least knows he’s interested in growing with them.

There wasn’t anything promising to report there, either, though. There’s a few paths he can take, but there likely won’t be any openings for another year, possibly more. He’s also the newest addition, so his coworkers are ahead of him if anything opens up.

That’s the “problem” with being in a relatively new department, I guess. They aren’t even sure what the future will look like!

While this is a little disheartening, it’s important to remain grateful we’re even here. This position was still a bump in pay from his old one, and he’s had the opportunity to learn a lot more about construction. Neither of us like things being uncertain, but who knows what the future holds.

Lastly, I wanted to add that I had the opportunity to review XY Planning Network’s new “Find an Advisor” portal. Put simply, they’re a group of financial advisors specifically aimed at Gen Y and X, and they’re looking to recreate the field of financial planning in a way that accommodates those generations.

Going through the specialties of each advisor made me realize there’s truly no one-size-fits all approach for our finances. Each of us is in a unique situation, and it’s important to have an advisor who understands that, which is why I’m grateful they exist!

What are you being grateful for this week? What’s the strangest thing your pets have done?

December Budget Preview (and How We’re Managing Our Finances)

December Budget Preview - Journey to SavingI am back with a preview of what December’s budget is going to (hopefully) look like!

We’re looking to take it easy this month, especially as we’ll be staying with my parents for 6 days surrounding Christmas. My mom has a feeling she’ll be working like crazy, so I plan on taking my own work with me and relaxing around the house.

Since there’s not much to say here, scroll down if you’re interested in reading about how we’re managing our finances. I’ve received a few questions on the subject and thought it was worth mentioning.

You all know I strive to be as transparent as possible around here, and I realized it was kind of silly not to address how we’ve been handling things since my freelance income isn’t quite where my full-time income used to be. It’s getting there, though!

December Budget Preview

Debt: Whoa, what’s $1,500 doing there?!? I had hinted at the fact we were possibly ready to make a big payment toward our loans, which is what spurred my student loan update last month. So I’m throwing it in here to be held accountable. We’ll still pay the minimum toward mine.

December Budget Preview Spreadsheet DetailsHousing: Same old story here! We sadly weren’t able to stay under $60 for electric like we did last month. Our electric bill actually states “the weather raised your bill by $8.” Thanks, mother nature. Our water bill also went up a tiny bit, but at least we’re staying under $30 there.

Food: I am sticking with $275 as again, we’ll be at my parents for Christmas, and I’m very grateful they feed us. I’ll probably contribute a little if my mom allows, just because that’s a lot of meals!

Ironically I wrote this in my draft: I don’t think we’ll need any household related items, but I’m leaving the $15 in from last month as we ended up with a few surprises! And of course, a surprise popped up. So I hope nothing else does!

I’m keeping restaurant spending low to account for our $5 Food Lion pizza every Friday (mostly R’s “treat”). If you have one around you and normally pay more for a pie, try it out! It’s huge and pretty tasty. Other than that, we don’t plan on dining out.

Transportation: I’m also keeping gas the same, as this month should entail the same amount of traveling as last month. Hopefully gas prices keep going down!

I’m throwing the $150 for the car back in here just in case we do make time to take the car to a mechanic, or do a tune-up ourselves. I’m not sure exactly how much the parts will cost.

We’re paying R’s car insurance premium in full, and mine was paid last month, so I don’t owe anything!

Misc:

Cats: They need food this month and another box of litter.

Gifts: Pretty self-explanatory. My family is horrible at telling me what they want ahead of time, so yes, I have to wait until December to do Christmas shopping to ensure I get them things they actually want. Because of that, I also don’t have an amazing idea of how much I’ll spend.

I do have a limit (i.e. I’m only spending X amount on this person), but when it comes to my parents, it’s hard to say no. They gave me so much growing up, and I want to repay the favor. The only reason I mention this is because my dad is getting the “upgrade computer” itch, and is requesting some more expensive items. My mom and I will be splitting those.

We actually went grocery shopping last night, and while there, Harris Teeter was having a stock up sale on k-cups – 5/$25. I was going to get my parents a huge pack, but I decided to go this route instead! In total there’s 60 k-cups, so I thought that was decent, and it allows me to give them a variety to try out.

Ring: I’m adding this back in here, but I’m not entirely sure we’ll have enough time to fit this in. Thanks to everyone to offered advice in my last post – I’m hoping to find someone who knows someone and can recommend an appraiser and a jeweler. =)

Personal Care: This should be pretty low, seeing as we got most of those expenses out of the way last month.

How We’re Managing Our Money

Since I’ve been freelancing, managing our money hasn’t been the same as it was before, and I wanted to give you all a little insight into what we’re doing.

We’ve always had a checking and savings account with our bank, so that hasn’t changed. I would really like to have a bank that allows multiple savings accounts, as I’d like to label our different savings categories (wedding, car, cats, travel, etc.), but for now, it’s all lumped in together.

To cut to the chase, we have a big emergency fund. I knew we would need it when we moved because I was either going to spend time looking for an actual job, or I was going to rough it out as a freelancer for a bit.

So we’ve essentially been living off of R’s income and our savings since we moved. It’s not an amazing position to be in at all, but we knew this would be our reality for a bit.

What’s going on with my freelance income? Freelancing is a different beast because it’s not steady, and I have to account for taxes.

The majority of my freelance income is separate from our personal money (makes sense), and I use PayPal for that, though I’m looking into opening a business checking account. I’m not thinking of it as “regular” spending money right now because I have no clue how much I’ll owe in taxes.

So all in all, when we go to pay the bills each month, we use what’s in our checking account. My freelance income is totally separate and only gets touched to pay for business related expenses (I don’t take it out and use it for groceries or anything).

Because our emergency fund was good upon relocating, we had already technically met our savings goal (this was before we got engaged). We have a healthy amount in there, which is why I feel comfortable putting $1,500 toward our student loans.

Those are now our full priority, unless we have a huge emergency that drains tons of cash, in which case, we would focus on building up our savings again.

Ideally, my income will grow even more, and thankfully it’s gotten to the point where we are saving money each month. I’m hoping it’ll go up significantly by April, and we’ll be able to resume saving for the wedding on top of paying off our debt.

We’re also hoping R will receive a raise at some point, but he’s going to start side hustling as a graphic designer, so we’ll see! If he can earn at least $400, we’ll be able to double our student loan payments!

How much have you budgeted for presents? Do you save ahead of time or buy ahead of time? If you’re a freelancer, how do you handle your finances?

November Budget Review

A review of how my November budget wentHi everyone! I’m back with my monthly budget review.

There’s actually not too much to report here, which is a good thing! I have to admit, I was a little lazy with tracking things this month. I posted my preview late, and I seriously feel like November was here and gone in the span of seconds.

That’s not good! Thankfully, R and I had developed a habit of saving our receipts before I even started doing these monthly budgets, so it’s easy to go back and reconcile things.

I think I might start snapping pictures of them, though. I want to make it as easy and painless as possible to motivate myself to be diligent with updating our spreadsheet. I’ve started to dread it simply because I’m waiting too long, and it can get tedious.

I’m not about to give up, though! Checking in with our budget more than just twice a month has been more productive than simply plugging in our totals once everything is said and done.

With that said, a lot of our budgeted spending didn’t happen this month. That’s both good and bad, I guess. Those categories are denoted in blue, in case you were wondering what that was about!

November Budget Review

Debt: I had told you all that I took your advice on what to do with our student loans into consideration, and here’s the end result! I convinced R that we should focus on his loans, and pay the minimum on mine. That meant another $20 could go toward his loans. Even though that’s a small amount, every little bit helps!

The numbers of my November budget reviewIf you didn’t read my update on our student loans, I’ll just let you know that one of my loans (at a 6.8% interest rate) is bundled with another, and R’s isn’t. That means we can focus solely on his 6.8% loans. He has 3, all of which are under $2,000. It just made the most sense to go this route.

Housing: This had all been updated when I posted our preview, so not much to go over here. As you can see, we held off yet again on purchasing a new phone for R. There’s no need for him to have a new phone (and he’s not clamoring for one), but he has a dumb phone on Virgin Mobile that is costing him a little more than it costs me to have a smartphone on Republic Wireless.

Food: Yet another small fail! We ended up needing a few too many household items that I hadn’t factored in. We ran out of toilet paper and paper towels at the same time, as well as bleach and dryer sheets. We splurged on Costco toilet paper and paper towels, which were$32, but they last for a few months, so I figured it was worth it.

As far as groceries, we had to do some shopping on the last day of the month. I didn’t feel like holding out one more day just for the sake of things.

Transportation: Gas prices are still going down (I think? Perks of working from home…), and they’re about $.10 to $.20 less by my parents, so we scored when we went to visit them. I hope they stay this way, so December will look the same!

I paid my car insurance premium in full, and we paid R’s off this month.

With all the craziness that happened in November, we didn’t end up getting my car looked at. Thankfully it’s still running okay, but I’m going to try looking into whether or not we can do a DIY tune-up. My dad and R did one for R’s car a few years ago, we just have to look into getting the parts.

Miscellaneous

The cats needed litter; they were cheap this month!

We ended up purchasing gifts for ourselves because we’re cool like that. Okay, what really happened is that I found out one of our favorite trance artists is coming here, and on a Saturday. I couldn’t say no to that. They often tour internationally, and I didn’t think they’d be in Charlotte, so I figured what the heck.

No ring? Well, I kept asking my mom if she could ask her friends for recommended jewelers, and she kept forgetting. I found a few local jewelers from recommendations on forums, but I’m nervous. I want to wear the ring, but being that it’s my grandma’s, I feel overly protective of it. I don’t want someone resizing it and then changing the diamonds out, especially because I don’t think my grandma has had the ring appraised in a while.

I have no experience with expensive jewelry – should I be getting it appraised and insured first? Educate me! =)

Ironically, I had decided not to upgrade my computer, but we were still having internet issues, and it was causing us a lot of grief. So on Sunday, I did some research, and found a decent router on sale at Best Buy for $50. I am happy to report things have been going well since, but I’m not holding my breath.

Lastly, I also failed to get a haircut this month. On the bright side, I did watch some tutorials, and I possibly feel confident enough to try and cut my own hair. Like I said, if I mess up, at least I have the length for it. The expenses in this category actually came from toiletries. We needed body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. I also needed new mascara (Miss Manga from L’Oreal is awesome, btw).

Conclusion

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how things turned out. We were right on budget for most things.

Reviewing past budgets, you can see that a common theme is holding off on spending for as long as we can. This can be both good and bad. Good, because we truly consider whether or not we need something (and budget for it just in case), and bad when it’s in the case of preventative maintenance, like the car.

I also need to get better at budgeting my time, because using the excuse that time got away is a little silly. On one hand, it’s true, but on the other, if I stopped dragging my feet on things and made an appointment for our car, it would happen.

How did your November spending turn out? Do you try and hold off on spending, or do you normally spend on what you budget for?