Louise and Dave's Blog

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Our Budget Process & Weekly Thoughts

We are going to run through our rather involved budgeting process.  If you aren’t ready for this, you could start by saving your daily receipts and tracking your daily spending.

How to budget by looking at past spending:  

  1. Log into your credit card and banking on-line sites and download year-end and monthly summaries of all transactions.
  2. Load the statements into a budgeting software program.  We use YNAB 4 (You Need A Budget).
  3. Categorize every transaction.  We made many categories so we could see where our money was going.  You can do this in the budgeting software, or you can print out the statements and do it by hand using different colored highlighters. 

Examples of categories we used:

Monthly bills:  mortgage, van loan, computer loan, gas/electric, water/sewer, internet, kids’ school and after school tuition payments, etc.

Everyday expenses:  groceries, gas, restaurants, prescriptions, etc

Recurring expenses:  haircuts, glasses, insurance (auto, home, etc…), gifts


Download a budget worksheet:
Note: If you have your own budgeting software, you can skip this step.   Go to the “Calculators and Worksheets” page on Summit Credit Union website via the “Tips and Tools” tab (or click on this link:  https://www.summitcreditunion.com/tools/calculators.html).  Scroll to the bottom of the page.  Click on the “Budget Worksheet” under the “Financial Worksheets” tab.   Add categories/line items to the budget worksheet.



At this point you should have completed the “NOW” column of the Summit Budget Worksheet. 

You should have a fairly complete picture of where your money is going. 

Now complete the “FUTURE” column.  What can/should/do you want to spend on each category per month?  

This took about 3 hours.  I (Louise) thought it would be easy to run through the list and come up with some quick numbers.  Each category seemed to trigger a lot of discussion.  It was eye-opening for both of us to see where our money was going. 

Eating on a budget can be tasty but it isn’t easy for us yet:

Week 1:  We returned 5 glass milk bottles for a $7.50 deposit.  We shopped our freezer/pantry for 2 # of ground beef, 5 packs of Annie’s noodles, and other staples (flour, sugar, cheese, gluten free noodles).  It required 8 trips to 5 stores, two trips by walking.  I spent three hours recording prices for staple items in our new “shopping database”.  Summer is a quieter time for me at work, so I was better rested and had more time.  We have a Prius that is fuel efficient to drive and most of the shopping trips were on my way home.

Week 2:  I believe we came in about $1.50 under our $120 goal.  We took our last $13 to the farmer’s market and bought asparagus, greens, and tomatoes.  

Drug Holiday

No, we are not driving to legalized Colorado.  Dave had a bone marrow biopsy in May that showed that his cancer hasn’t changed after two plus years on his current chemotherapy pill, cyclosporine.  The chemo has damaged his kidneys, but we are hoping it is a reversible side effect.  On Thursday, Dave will stop his chemo and go on a drug holiday.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that he stays healthy.

Shout outs

Budgeting led to some tough decisions, including canceling our swim class membership.  Swimwest (http://www.swimwest.com) has been a huge part of our weekends for years.  When Will started there, he would panic when water touched his eyes.  Now, he swims like a fish.

Dave called to explain that our life circumstances, and not any dissatisfaction, triggered the change.  A couple of days later, Swimwest called back to offer us summer scholarships for the kids’ swim lessons.  The staff wanted the kids to finish out their year with their current teachers.  We're simply blown-away with their generosity.

Garage sales:  Letting go of stuff can spread happiness

An older gentleman on a bike was delighted to try on my dad’s old cardigan sweater and find that it fit perfectly.  “You don’t see this company anymore…usually the sleeves are too long…he must have been a small guy like me.”  He biked off happy, and I was happy to see it go with someone who would enjoy wearing it.

I was still bringing out new items at 5 pm on Sunday because pedestrian traffic from the nearby Yahara Waterfront Festival was heavy.  I found 2 strings of Christmas lights and 2 old oilcloth tablecloths.  They sold within 5 minutes for $2.  It feels great to get rid of things that we aren’t using and make a little money off of it.

The very last sale on Sunday at twilight was a 1990’s paisley tie of my dad’s.  A group of 20-something’s on skateboards had stopped to check the bargain clothes rack (50 cents an item).  We told him the tie was 25 cents, but he insisted on paying $1 “because it was such a nice tie”.  My dad would have loved that story.

Kindred spirits

Dave sorted through his extensive book collection for the sale and decided to part with many treasured books.  The early birds grumbled at Dave’s prices: $4/hardcover, $2/trade paperback, and $1/paperback. One woman scanned every book’s upc code with her phone and left without making a purchase.  I think that left both of us upset and dejected — upset that she was going to find a treasure that we should have caught and dejected that none of the books were selling.  Dave allowed the next haggler to buy a stack for beautiful map and photo hardcovers for just $2 each.  This purchase still feels a little bad for Dave — it’s funny how some sales make you feel bad.

Then Dave’s psychic twin showed up and saved the day by purchasing almost all of the books on Medieval history, the Crusades, World War II, the Vietnam war, Japan, physics and chess.  The books totaled about $122 (at Dave’s list price) but the buyer had only $118.  We took his last dollar, but gave his partner a free pottery plate.  It was a bittersweet sale for Dave, but it felt good that his curated collection was going to stay together.

Amazing neighbors

Andy and Jim donated a leaky hose and old sandbox toys for Celine’s “garage sale”. Liana brought toys and a changing table for us to sell, and most importantly, gave us COFFEE.  Danielle sent over some vintage kids’ books to sell and some clothes for Ellie.  Matilda was our best repeat customer and bought my beloved 1930’s bread box.  Many more neighbors stopped to visit or shop.

Takeaway for the Week

What is more important than we realized:  

It takes a village.  Neighbors are an amazing source of strength, advice, and energy.  Especially when kids are involved.

What is easier than we thought:

Letting go of stuff.  Saving does not require accumulating.  Sometimes letting things go frees more than space.


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What a great "village" you have! Awesome news about the swimming scholarship!

Opps - an important step got left out of our budgeting process -- figuring out what you spend now. Use your budgeting software to run reports for each category. For each category (line item) write down the total amount spent in a year. Divide that total by 12 to find how much spent per month.
Note: This took about 4 hours over 2 nights. It is a bit tedious. Make good notes as you go so you don't have to check the numbers again.

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