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Budgeteering for the Long Haul

It barely seems like a year ago that we really buckled down with our budget and devised a plan… 7 months of Project Money easily kept us focused on our goals! Last week, we had another meeting with Coach Mike where we put actual numbers to the progress we’ve made, and made our best guess about how those numbers will look at the end of 2010 and Project Money. It made us wish we had been keeping track of hard numbers like that since we started at the beginning of the year. Still, what we’ve done in the past 7 months feels amazing. Even though we had a projected timeline of paying off all our debt (one of our biggest goals), it never sank in what we were attempting to do. Now, with those hard numbers posted on our fridge, what once seemed insurmountable, then barely do-able, now seems easy and very realistic in the near future.

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Budgeteer Reflections

As we’re in the final stretch of Project Money, we have really been watching our pennies, and trying to stretch the budget as much as possible. When any expense is discussed, we (somewhat) jokingly ask “can it wait until January?” before making any decisions. The bigger joke has become how busy January will be! A better way to ask the question would probably be “Is it a NEED and is it URGENT?” Anyone in the budgeting process has probably learned to clarify needs versus wants. It seems urgency has helped us clarify that even further. Often it seems when something seems to be a need, but it’s not urgent, something works out in the mean time so that we avoided the expense all together! Using cash also seems to have helped make us more conscious of those choices.

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Budgeteers Digging Out!

Okay, Mother Nature, point taken and noted. We will no longer talk about how much we enjoy the snow. I think we’ve got enough for a while…  Days like this sometimes makes us question our great anticipation to move back to Wisconsin! Our current zip code forecast for the week: blazing blizzard followed by blistering cold. Our former South Carolina zip code forecast for the week: mainly sunny, highs in the low to mid 50’s (yes, I really looked it up!). Keep in mind, they’re experiencing a cold snap too.

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Beating the Winter Blues with Budgeteering

The fresh blanket of snow is still new and providing lots of fun. Carson loves to play in the snow and could hardly wait to get to our favorite sledding hill. Just as the flakes were finishing up, he got bundled up, ran out to the back yard and flopped on the ground to make a snow angel. Clearly, snow can be a great gift when parents are looking for cheap entertainment! For now, we’ll take advantage of it for as long as possible! But we also know the excitement will wear off sometime before the weather is warm enough for other outdoor entertainment. We always like to have an inexpensive option handy to break the cabin fever when it strikes – usually sometime in late January to early February. You know, when we get that ‘so cold your nose hairs instantly form icicles and fall out’ cold strike that seems to linger around just after you had a hint of warm weather on the way…   

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Budgeteers Gear Up for the Holidays!

It was a great week of giving thanks, visiting family and starting the holiday season right! For Thanksgiving, we only had to travel about 10 miles to my aunt and uncle’s house, where we had dinner in the barn! That’s right, a barn. A nice, spruced up, non-smelly barn. The family gathering is so big we’ve outgrown any usual dining areas, even a town hall we used to rent. But now, the “Funny Farm” Party Barn is up and running! In the past, we’ve had to travel much further, so we were glad to save gas money by meeting the entire clan closer to home. A classy party barn so close to home is certainly a reason to be thankful! A crazy family that always provides quality entertainment = priceless!

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Bear Bank Budgeteering

An important part of Project Money for us has been teaching Carson all along the way how to manage money. Even though he’s only 5 years old, he certainly understands the value of a dollar. He has always had a bear bank to save up his coins and dollars that he finds and “earns” from friends and relatives. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the joy he gets out of saving and seeing his account balance grow. When he had his birthday in October, we started an official chore chart for him. He has a few simple things to do around the house each day, and earns a play dollar if they all get done. Carson also earns bonus play dollars for doing extra chores or volunteering for things. At the end of the week, he gets to trade in the play dollars for real dollars.

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Brian’s Tire Budgeteering (AKA The ‘Two Terrible Tires’ Blues)

Rachel normally does the blogs for us but has a bit of writers block. Although not nearly as entertaining, I (Brian) am going to discuss our recent tire purchase. Exciting? No. A purchase most people need to make? Yes. 

My goal was to replace the 2 worst tires with 2 used ones. I really struggled with that since a 4-wheel drive should have all 4 tires replaced at the same time. I researched all the businesses that carried tires in Portage and contacted them describing my needs. My inquiries led nowhere. In fact, one response I received was, “You’re the 6th guy this week asking for that.” Considering that it was only Wednesday I realized that the economy has forced a lot of households to save wherever possible.

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Budgeteering Buddies

When sticking to a tight budget, it would be easy to focus on what’s suddenly missing. We have tried to stick to the “gratitude attitude.” A few weeks ago, Amy wrote about the value of a helping hand, and how she was able to help friends, even without spending money. (Way to go, Amy!) Not to wax too philosophically here, but we think it’s important to keep a karmic flow going – and that means still giving when on budget. It always seems amazing how things work out so splendidly when having a positive focus.

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Budgeteers in Disguise

Halloween for the budgeteers was a hoot! We saved big on candy by waiting until it was all on sale AND using coupons to stock up for the big day. Costumes were easy on the budget too. Carson decided on going as a Cowboy, after we found some snazzy new boots at St. Vincent’s for $3. We added jeans, a flannel cowboyish shirt, a vest, cowboy hat and bandana we already had at home. Brian helped make a lasso which Carson tied on his belt loop to complete the look. A little creativity went a long way, and the boots have provided even more fun than the 4 cent birthday balloons. Brian was even easier – he wore his usual jeans and flannel shirt, grabbed a paper towel roll and was the Brawny guy. I had a vision early last Sunday morning and turned a dress I had (by adding some 47 cent ribbon and a few things around the house) into a fab Green Bay Packers fairy costume. Each of us was one of kind, for sure! In my book, that’s way better than any overpriced, ready made costume!

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Honest Budgeteering

It seems like a long haul, and it has been. About this time last year, we were formulating our budget to put into action for 2010. We started our extreme plan of debt reduction in high hopes that we’d easily stick to our tight budget and knock out all of our debt in 2 years or less, then we’d be able to let loose…a bit. So far, so good. We’ve stuck to our budget without incurring any new debt and even handled a few curveballs while doing so. Part of our debt reduction plan was to simplify; get rid of unneeded “stuff” including payments! An important part of that was to focus on quality when purchasing anything new.

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