Slim Pickings

It’s that time of the month.  No, not THAT time.  THAT time has come and gone and I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my next round of cramps from hell and Too Sad Tuesday.  Another time.

THIS time of the month is the time when I’ve just about drained my checking account.  Payday is tomorrow so at the stroke of midnight, my account will get a magical bump and all will be well with the world again.

As I mentioned in a SFC post, I transfer money to my savings account shortly after getting it in my checking to ensure I actually save something for the month, but then I do the worry game and constantly check my account. 

Is there a scheduled payment I’ve forgotten about?  Just how much ARE gas stations holding on your card these days before they let you pump?  I think I’ll make it.

BUT, just because I’m getting paid, doesn’t change the fact that there’s still two days left in April, so spending is staying down.  The end of the month is always when I have to really have to focus on NOT spending and the focusing really makes me WANT to spend!

Case in point, I spent the last two days after work wandering shopping centers.  When it got to be 6:00, I thought to myself, who AM I?  I’m a homebody, go home!  I did end up with a pretty dress from Nordstrom Rack (still using my tax refund to supplement my wardrobe) and couldn’t resist an OPI polish.  I do not buy OPI normally, but the color was awesome (Red My Fortune) and it went on so smoothly, I might be a convert.

Anyway, if an $8.50 bottle of polish is my splurge, I think I’m okay.   

I have $74.76 left in my budget (really only for gas and two nights out) and $134.08 in my account, so balls to the wall!

I did okay with my budget this month and I also had a realization.  When I assessed my spending, I was paying $191 on the second of every month for my car payment.  My idea of how much I spent per month included that, but when I finished with those payments last October, my idea of how much I spent per month, and therefore, what I gave myself permission to budget every month, remained the same. 

Add to that the fact that I recently started participating in my company’s 401k program (just as soon as they announced they had reinstated their match) and my paychecks ain’t what they used to be, so I realized it’s time to pull back.

Now add to THAT the fact that I feel like I have a well-paying job.  I feel like I’ve paid my dues with crappy jobs, with having to work two jobs.  I’m a professional in my mid-20s and my opinion is that as you become more successful (and get older), you get more flex room with your spending, not the opposite. 

Needless to say, when I presented this idea of pulling back to myself, it was met with a bit of resistance.  What’s right isn’t always easy and what’s easy isn’t always right.

Insert big girl panties. 

I sucked it up and skimmed a bit off of each category in my budget that had flex room and have now ended up with a budget plan for May that is $150 lower than my previous idea of how much it should be, making myself save most of that car payment I would have previously been making, but giving myself a little reward for being done with it. 

This budget thing really is a month-by-month learning process.

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E-Fund S.O.S.

I have been doing pretty well on my emergency fund recently.  It’s not fully funded, but it’s comfortable.  March has certainly been a test of that. 

A check up at the dentist in February turned into a three-phase follow up and my insurance covers some, but definitely not all. 

A safety recall on my car turned into a complete overhaul.  Okay, not complete, but the list of things they found wrong was immense!  It was all stuff I knew needed to be fixed and had it on my list but never got around to (my future husband and my father both just rolled their eyes).  It was convenient to just take care of it all at once while I got to drive a fun, little Jetta around for the day, but taking on the cost all at once was not fun.  At all.

A few years ago, even though I had the money, I would have put it on credit cards so I didn’t have to think about it all coming out of my account at once.  But now, instead of freaking out about these expenses, I reminded myself that this is what the emergency fund is for, transferred the money into my checking account and paid it like a big girl.

Okay, maybe I freaked out a little.  I thought about how I could pull back on my spending to pump up what I’m contributing to get the e-fund back on track, thoughts of a second job flooded my brain.

But, I took a calming breath, reminded myself, again, that’s what it’s there for, so that I don’t have to disrupt my monthly budget.  I honestly don’t remember the last time I dipped into it, so even though I had two “emergencies” this month, it doesn’t mean I’ll keep having them.

I also had a bit of a freak out when my second bride and the few bridesmaids she had in tow picked a dress that costs more than any dress, let alone a bridesmaid’s dress you’ll wear once, should and more than I had budgeted for.  However, I smiled, said, “whatever the bride wants,” and forked over the first half for the down-payment while reminding myself that that’s what the wedding fund is for and the $30 that it went over what I budgeted just means I’ll sit out a round or two at the bachelorette party.

Without these focused funds, I’d probably still have the same amount in savings, but putting it aside and labeling its purpose really helps me a lot.  And that’s what they’re there for!

Who needs a tiara? Give me a Roth IRA.

Finding this clip was supposed to make me feel better, but I remembered it differently.  I thought she straight out googled “finance,” but she didn’t, so it didn’t.

I work in finance and sometimes I wonder how the hell that happened. Scratch that.  I work in the finance industry and I was hired because knowledge of the industry was not a key requirement.  My bosses actually find it slightly humorous, and I like to think charming, that the TV by my desk – meant to keep guests in the office informed about the markets – is more often tuned to The Today Show and Oprah.

It’s mostly frustrating to me personally tonight because of the “rollover 401(k) to Roth IRA” cloud that has been looming over my head for years!  I’ve got step one crossed off my list, but don’t know where to go from here. 

21-year-old Emjaye never really expected to be here, but 26-year-old Emjaye is glad she is. 

At 21, I talked vaguely with my dad about finance as I started my first real job, opened those damn 401(k)s and began supporting myself.  At 21, there was a big hullabaloo about transferring investment accounts into my name, but I haven’t done much with them (besides, fortunately, watch them grow). 

At 21, I thought by 26 I’d have found someone to know about finances in the way I’ve always relied on my dad to know about finances.  When I say finances, though, I mean the bigger stuff.  Day-to-day, I feel confident about budgeting and spending and saving. 

Luckily, I never got myself into huge debt expecting some prince to come along and get me out of it.  I just expected some prince to come along and help me plan a comfortable life and retirement (like my prince of a dad has with my mom).

At 26, I know it’s up to me.  And just like at work, I’ll get there.  Neither is going to be about step one, now step two anymore.  I work better when I know WHY I’m doing step one and HOW it helps me at step two, so I’m engaging myself.

I might have a little talk with Pops this weekend, but those talks usually just remind me that I’m quite capable and knowledgeable if I just give myself a break.  And that I don’t need a prince and his castle and his piles of money.  I just need a man who will treat me like a princess – maybe even one who is a little turned on by my financial savvy!

Me V. The Budget

December is not going down without a fight.  I’m participating in Reverb 10.  I’m continuing my training for my half-marathon.  I’m taking my personal training certification test.  What am I most scared of tackling next month?

Spending my money responsibly.  I’ve been tracking my spending for years, but have never come up with or attempted to follow an actual budget.  Until now. 

My spending has been out of control.  It doesn’t feel out of control, but when I look at what I’ve spent, the little things are adding up like I can’t believe. 

I have an idea of what I can live off of per month because it’s what I was spending before.  Before being when I had a job that paid absolute crap and that’s all I could spend.  It’s not anywhere near what I’ve been spending lately, although the idea was to maintain that and focus on saving.  If I can avoid spending money today, I’ll have saved $123 for the month and that’s because of a last-minute hail Mary (I’m still getting paid out PTO from my last job).  Not what I had in mind. 

For December, though, I’ve worked out a plan of how I can spend that amount – gifts, charity and fun included.  It’s based on what I have been spending in certain categories and what cuts I think I can make.  Here it is:

$30           groceries 
$70           eating out (including dates, bars, etc.)
$820        rent and bills
$120        gas
$100.61  insurance
$21.68     entertainment (Blockbuster subscription)
$127         health
$15            toys for tots
$150.25   school loans
$25            credit card 
$370.46  gifts
$50            travel
$100         misc. spending 

It definitely seems manageable, but like I said, I’ve never followed a budget.  I’m such a rule follower, except when I’m the one setting the guidelines (diet, study schedule, stay away from this or that bad boy…forget it!).  If I stick to it, I will also be able to exceed my savings goal for the year.  The idea, of course, is also to NOT put anything on my credit card.