Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Budget

As this year drew to a close, my husband and I sat down to evaluate our finances and see what needs adjusting.  We’ve come to see that our budgets have been like a pendulum, swinging back and forth with equal energy between spending and extra debt payments. 

We always seemed to manage one or maybe two really strict low spending months, but then a catch up month would follow.  We can eat out of the cupboards and freezer for a month, keeping the groceries under $400, but inevitably the next month we’d be out of paper towels, toilet paper, flour, sugar, rice , potatoes, diapers and just about every other imaginable household item.  Other budget categories had the same problem.  We had no regular line for clothes, which is ok until Shawn needs new winter work boots, which come in over $200, or someone needs snow-pants or socks or whatever.  We can wear out or entire wardrobe but the stock up at the end of it is a big bill!

Shawn received a raise late this fall, so our income has changed slightly.  We sat down to work out a new basic budget, the one that we start out with each month then plan any new items we know are coming up.  We start with the same basic amounts, and then adjust for each month’s unique needs.  We wanted to make a budget that was a bit more balanced, creating a more even pace.

Our first major goal this year is to increase our donation to the church and reach a full tithe by the end of the year.  Since I blogged all about it already (Read about that here)  I won’t do more than mention it today, except to say that I will be tracking more closely the portion of Shawn’s income that is variable and working on a system to make sure I am tithing on things like overtime and bonuses.

We added planned amounts for home maintenance, vehicle maintenance and clothes.  Instead of these things being added as an “ other expense we know of” in a month when a need popped up, we will now have a planned amount.  Unused portions will be transferred into savings, still ear marked for that category and used when bigger-than-this-month’s-allotment expenses come up.

We’ve decided to save a small amount each month, instead of using all extra funds as debt payment.  We will still be paying about 10% of our income onto debt payments each month.  We have decided that the “Dave Ramsey” method of an insane pace sprinting until the finish line isn’t working for us.  We are opting instead for a marginally smaller speed, which will leave us with different options.  The small savings number will help when we want to take a summer camping trip, or pay for something like soccer or ballet.  We can spread these items out over the year instead of the month or two before they are due.

We’ll continue our renovations at a slow pace.  Saving ahead and paying for each stage will set the speed.

It is still our main debt related goal to pay off our Master Card by October when our mortgage will be up for renewal.  After that, we attack our credit line.  Recently, when regular interest rates where changed at the bank, the fees on our credit line doubled.  This will make it harder to pay off extra principal, and we are even more determined to pay off this giant mistake from our past!!

We will start paying our children allowances again.  We have tried different ideas off and on without much success this year and are still looking for a system that is the right fit for our family.  We’ve decided that it’s purpose will be to let our children practice making decisions about how to save and spend money.  They won’t be “earning” it per se with chores, but there will, in the future, be a list of extras they could do if they would like to earn more money for a goal they have.

I have gotten really slack about planning and tracking each month, and I want to make a new excel sheet to get us back on track in this area.

That about sums up my financial resolutions for the up coming year.  What are your goals this year?

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