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Budgeting — Putting money into our dreams and some nuts and bolts

Our coach Sherry gave us some homework in July.  We had talked about funding our dreams (a trip to Hawaii and remodeling a bathroom), but we still hadn’t put any money behind it.  That changed last week as I was fine tuning our sub accounts at Summit.  I realized that we had $500 in a general savings account that didn’t have a job.  It was very satisfying to change the name on the sub account to “DREAMS.”  

The next step will be figuring out how much money we can transfer to the DREAMS account on a monthly basis.  Our monthly budget continues to have some loosey gooseyness on the order of $500-1000 that we haven’t nailed down.  Part of the uncertainty is that we are saving money in sub accounts but not spending it (which is exactly the point of having a sub account).  So, we should probably leave the money there for when it will be needed.  Or should we steal that money to make a bigger car payment?  Or get a jump on saving for our dreams?  I think it will take the next 4 months or even a whole year to get a handle on some of this. 

Our homework also included fine tuning our sub accounts so they matched our savings goals.  We got rid of some sub accounts that were more work than they’re worth — this was the case with our groceries sub account.  At the beginning of the month we’d put in $480.  Then every week we’d transfer $120 back to checking to replace our equivalent cash withdrawal.  We didn’t need this extra step to stay on budget, and it felt silly.  So we renamed it.

Now we have separate sub accounts for:

  • Insurance premiums
  • Gifts
  • Vacations
  • Charitable giving
  • Personal expenses (like haircuts, clothing, and eye glasses)
  • Co-pays for medical and dental care
  • Utilities (to save for winter heating bills)
  • The tax accountant
  • And something called “auto bus park.”.  The auto bus park account is a place to stash money for gas, car repairs, parking and bus pass fees. 

What isn’t in a sub account? 

  • Regular expenses/monthly bills that we pay every month.

We use our checking accounts to pay our recurring monthly bills — Charter, MG&E, Madison Water, preschool, tutoring, and WPR.  We withdraw cash from our checking account to pay for babysitting and groceries.  This requires good communication and accurate math between Dave and I.  We have a nightly talk after the kids go to bed to check in and plan the next day.

Speaking of Dave, he has been off his chemo for a month or so and seems to be doing well.  His kidneys are happier, and he doesn’t miss the side effects of chemo.  Hopefully he will stay well as cold and flu season start in the fall.  

Takeaway for the Week

What is more important than we realized:   One of the kids handed me $3 back when I paid her allowance and said, “I’m always going to save a little.”  Two days later she found one of her many little sacks of money, and she again counted out $3 and asked me to put it in her savings.  I felt like Summit had just handed me the biggest prize of Project Money — lifelong savings habits.  I know we might sound like a broken record about this, but talking to kids about money can bring about transformative changes. 

What is easier than we thought:  spending money at the boy scout bingo tent at the Orton Park Festival.   I spent about $8.  We did win $20 in pizza, a jet engine model kit, and other “major awards.”  We had a blast and spent our festival money there rather than the ice cream tent.  Next year, I will be smarter about it and put all of our bingo money on the table at the beginning.  When the money is gone, it will be time to leave the tent.


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"when the money is gone, it's time to leave." Now - that's a life lesson. Kids really are ok with learning about budgeting and earning money. Chance wanted to earn $14 for this Teenage Ninja Turtle toy - totally not "in the budget" is what we say...so he asked if he could earn it (this is above and beyond the normal chores to run a family). He (at 4 1/2 years old) picked weeds out of Grams garden. He came home filthy but $14 richer and enjoyed that toy so much!! We treat carnivals similar - they each get 2 rides, dinner and a desert - no more. So we have fun, and on a budget and then everyone has the same expectations and it's objective - you can't argue with "it's not in the budget". Way to go!

Glad to hear that Dave is feeling better! As for investing these ideas in your kids, good for you. I used to be grateful when I was young that my parents never "forced" me to save. But you can see where that got me.

I love the fact that you all do a recap of the day and plan for the next before going to bed. That is awesome!

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