Thursday, December 18, 2008

Envelope System: Halfway through December 2008

I decided to make December my "test" month for trying out the envelope system. I put $150 in my Groceries envelope and $200 in my Eating Out envelope. We're now a little more than halfway through the month and here's how it's looking so far...

I've spent $104.62 on groceries so far, of which $14 was for vanilla extract that will probably last me for the next two years and $7 was for pure entertainment of friends (some chips and dip). It's gonna be tough to stick to this and I may have just allocated too little to this envelope. Especially with cooking Christmas Eve dinner and co-hosting a New Year's Eve party. I only have $45.38 left and the standing rib roast I want to make will likely take up $25 of that even with the meat on sale this week. Hmmm... Maybe if I can spend less in the eating out department... How's that looking?

Eating Out
Tonight was my major outing for the month, an annual Christmastime tradition of eating $18 AMAZING grilled cheese sandwiches at Campanile. Add wine, cheese as dessert and a mandatory gratuity for a large party (not that they don't deserve it because the service at Campanile is excellent!) and you've got yourself a $50 dinner. I am proud of myself for not falling into the valet trap. I found street parking for free, a block away, while everyone else paid $6.50 plus tip for valet parking. I will gladly walk two blocks to save $8 dollars for nothing. I had planned on spending up to $60, so I am happy that it was only $50.

Back to the progress report... I've spent $104.86, so I'm on track to be OK for the month if I don't go crazy. I've been invited out for drinks tomorrow night with one group of friends and dinner with another... I might have to skip one or both if I want to have leftover money to put towards extra groceries and party supplies.

I'm happy with the budgeting. I've been taking some ribbing from friends, but I can take it. It's my money and sure, I might look cheap sometimes, but at least I am in control of what I'm spending and more importantly, I'm consciously spending my money. The envelopes definitely help with this because seeing the money in the envelope and writing down on the outside of the envelope exactly how much I spent helps me keep an eye on it. I've also been enjoying cooking more at home. It makes me feel more productive. It's a nice feeling.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bike Hero

It's fun and boy, do these kids have a lot of extra time on their hands. Strangely compelling to watch...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Tightening the Financial Belt

I have been completely avoiding looking at my Vanguard account because I knew that my stocks must be down. I invest mainly in index funds, so I've been positive they would be down, down, down... I finally logged in to check on them and sure enough, they're so low that it's almost enough to make my stomach turn! I haven't stopped my regular contributions though. I'm gonna struggle through the emotional side and just keep plugging away at it. It did really help me resolve to buckle down on cutting my spending.

Which brings me to the next big thing that I've put off and off... trying to make a budget! Or I should say: MAKING a budget. I guess the even tougher part will be STICKING to it.

That is one of my goals this weekend. To figure out how much I am spending on the essentials and then how much I want to spend. I'm dedicated to eating food out of my pantry and freezer though, so that should get me through a lot of December. I have a lot of food in there!

I am pretty certain that my biggest expenditures are traveling (one of the downfalls of having a long-distance boyfriend) and eating out (foodie friends will kill you in that department!). So, I'm going to institute the Envelope System for the eating out and maybe groceries. I have no idea how much I actually spend on going out to eat each month, but should I be spending more than $200? I think not, so I'm gonna stick $200 in an envelope and every time I eat out, I'll take it out of the envelope. If I run out of money, I won't go out to eat. Luckily, so far, I only have two times this month that I KNOW I'm going out. I may adjust this amount if I come up with some data while making the budget that makes sense.

How much to budget for groceries? I'm a single woman who entertains often... $150 a month? Hmmm... that's a toughie. Maybe research is required on that one. I guess I could try $150 a month and see how it goes. December has the danger of being more expensive with New Year's and Christmas dinner thrown in there. Meat's expensive!

As far as traveling goes, most of my traveling can be broken down into: going to see Greg and gaming conventions. Gulf Games is coming up in February and I really don't want to miss it. I have a roommate lined up and maybe I could use a free ticket I got from United for being bumped on my white water rafting trip. That would make it more affordable for sure! *sigh*

OK - I can do this. Deep breaths...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

No Christmas Gifts This Year

I don't know about you, but I've definitely been much more conscious of my spending. Buying a new-to-me car took a big bite out of my savings and with my 401(k) and investments taking a dive, I've decided to just chill out for Christmas and not buy Christmas gifts. *gasp!*

This decision was also helped by doing Ramit's savings challenge the month of November. He created a website called No Christmas Gifts This Year and I've already used it to send out cute emails to some of my friends to let them know that instead of exchanging gifts, I'd much rather spend time with them playing board games or cooking a meal together. My free time has really become more precious this year and spending it with people I love is much more important that having more stuff. Especially when I'm constantly trying to fight the battle of The Stuff in my one bedroom apartment!

That said, this isn't a hard and fast rule. I adopted a woman through my church who needs some help and I'm planning to buy something for my boyfriend and my nephew. I might also give away things I currently own as gifts. I already started before I left town by clearing out my closet and giving Shane some clothes. I have my eye on something else to give her as a gift.

I also plan on sending out Christmas cards. I think I failed to accomplish that last year and I want to remedy that this year. I usually participate in the BGG Secret Santa exchange, but I downgraded myself to the Christmas card exchange. I'm very much looking forward to it as I have several people on my "to send" list and half of them are out of the country! If you aren't sure you're on my Christmas card list and want to be, send me an email with your mailing address!

The final issue is this... I'm not sure about buying a Christmas tree. I love having one and decorating it, but they do cost about $60-90 depending on how tall they are. That may have to be my one Christmas indulgence. I'm hosting a couple Christmas get-togethers and I think a decorated tree will be a nice addition to the festivities. Maybe I could get a shorter one? I love the big, tall trees though. And I know the fake trees are more practical, I don't know if I can revert to one! The real ones are just so darn pretty!! Oh, the dilemma! I think I'll just buy one. It just won't feel like Christmas without the tree...

Next to try... the Envelope System...