On Money and Budgets

I’m not one for resolutions or setting real goals. For me they don’t make sense. But there’s something about a fresh, new year and wanting to make a few changes. One of the things we’re working on in our house is our budget [groaaaan]. From when we got married nearly 15(!) years ago, Mark and I have always shared finances. With the exception of retirement accounts, all of our money goes into the same pot and we make joint decisions about how to spend nearly all of it.

This is not so say we have a perfect situation set up here, or that I would ever claim that our way is the best way. In fact we need some help in setting budget parameters and living within them without texting things like “I’m going to spend $75 at Target – any reason I shouldn’t?” while we’re at the store.¬†So we are slowing working on setting up “YNAB“.

Setting up realistic numbers should be pretty easy as nearly every penny of our spending¬†has filtered through Quicken over the last 15 years. Seriously. And yet, even with that kind of tracking we don’t always do well with sticking to a realistic budget. More often then not our spending decision is “nope, can’t afford it”. Because with 2 kids, one still in daycare, we likely can’t. We expect¬†YNAB to¬†help us both see exactly were we stand on any given day in regards to all areas of our money. Hopefully this will give us a bit more accountability and maybe even some freedom.

Oh, and here’s a confession: we don’t have credit cards. In fact, 2015 is year 3 with no credit cards. It’s scary at times, but also almost a relief (?), I guess. I mean, if we don’t have the cash to buy something we don’t buy it. Simple decision. No hidden purchases stashed in the trunk (come on, we all do it), no spontaneous purchases. Yes, we have an emergency fund for real emergencies but we don’t touch that unless we have to. It’s the reason we can’t just go to Disney like we desperately want to. We plan to go in about 13 months because the cost of a trip like Disney takes about 18 months to save cash for. That’s just our reality and¬†what¬†works for us right now.

Things should loosen up in the fall when Madman starts kindergarten. But the truth is that most of the savings from tuition will be redirected to¬†the items towards which we are saving. And can I just tell you how wonderful it is that we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after NINE YEARS of childcare? I mean we’ll still pay for aftercare and summer camps but it’s about one fifth of what we are paying now. (And those 2 years they were BOTH in daycare?¬†Thinking about those bills makes me hyperventilate).

Right now some of the big, immediate things we are saving cash for include:

РSummer camps for Matilda. She is all signed up for 9 weeks of various camps and we need to pay off the balances before June 1.

– Having the house painted & garage doors replaced this summer

Р3 trips to see my parents in South Carolina in 2015

– Disney in early 2016

By the time bills are paid, food is purchased and savings are stashed away, there is little left for things like my make-up desires or new running shoes.

This lifestyle can be quite hard in today’s society (that sounds very pompous, it’s not meant to be). I can be pouty about seeing a great deal on something and not being able to take advantage of that deal because it’s not in the budget. Or having to turn down opportunities to go out because it’s not in the budget. It’s not to say we are broke, because we aren’t. But when you don’t have a credit card to fall back on those immediate wants aren’t nearly as gratifying to purchase.

But the big picture is this: by the end of 2016 we’ll should¬†enough saved up to rewire the entire house and upgrade our electrical panel¬†(we have old knob and tube wiring and not enough amps), and replace our 90+ year old boiler.

The 5 year plan includes a new roof, complete renovation of our 3rd floor including the¬†existing bathroom into a full master suite. Basically I want it to be this with built-in dressers and bookshelves¬†in the walls. I can’t wait. The 10 year plan will include the start of college(!) for Matilda and full kitchen gut-job and renovation. We’ll do as much of it with cash as we can.

I’m not sure how to wrap this all up with a nice bow. These are just the thoughts rattling around in my head right now.

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