Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Month, New Budget

With the approach of September 1st, I've been feeling the need to get a few things in order. Maybe it's the whole "back to school" feeling, maybe it's the return of the cool weather (which seems to have only gone away for a week or two this year) or perhaps it's the fall equivalent of spring cleaning - I'm feeling the urge to get things organized and tidied up.

I'm starting with my money. I've been keeping a log of everything I spend my money on each day in a little notebook for about 2 years now. When I have the time or the inclination, I logged the information every week into an Excel spreadsheet. But it seems I never actually finish a spreadsheet, add up the final totals or do anything with the results.

Starting today, I'm going to keep recording things as I have been doing but I'm also going to follow a planned budget and see if I can live with the amounts that I have set for myself. I'm going to do this for the next four months, until the end of the year, and see what the results are. My goal is to pay down my credit card debt and I've allocated monthly amounts to do that. As an additional incentive for me, any money I save from my budgeted amounts will go into one of the mason jars I got at the farm auction a few weeks ago, which I have labelled "Laptop Fund" (up to $20, if it's more than that, I have to put it on the credit card). That's right, once I save up $1,000, I'm going to treat myself to a laptop (for hopefully less than $1,000 but I figure that's a good amount to work toward). I expect it will take me about a year to save that money because I've tried to funnel as much of my spare cash towards the credit cards and I've only got a few dollars a month left over once the budget is fully applied but we'll see. I'd like to have the laptop before my trip to France next August so that gives me 11 months to work with.

The Laptop Fund will also fill up with coins as I continue with someting I've also been doing for quite a while now. Every day, I empty my coin purse into the piggy bank. This actually adds up quite quickly because of our Canadian loonies and twonies (for my international readers, that's what we call our $1 and $2 coins). It's usually a few dollars a day, depending on how much shopping I do during the day.

I've also added a little incentive for myself with respect to my goal to be more active. I've taken the amount I've allocated for my weekly general expenditures and I've subtracted $40. Based on the idea that I'd like to work out at least 4 times per week, every time I do, I get $10 from that $40. Otherwise, I have to live without that extra cash and whatever amount I haven't earned that week by exercising, goes against my credit card instead. Obviously, I win either way but it means I may miss out on a few treats during the week.

I had been thinking up ways to use the dozen mason jars I got at the auction a few weeks ago. One of them is now holding my collection of sequins. A few of them have been used to help sort out the various nuts and bolts that I also obtained at the auction, but I still had at least 5 of them available for use. It had occurred to me that I could use them somehow for my budget and then this past weekend, my mother happened to mention a woman on TV who teaches people how to get out of debt and said she uses a jar system. She wasn't sure which show it was, but one of the links below is from "Til Debt Do Us Part" with Gail Vax Oxlade and I found several of the articles very interesting and helpful. If you Google the words "money jars", you'll get lots of results as well.

The bottom line is, you can do whatever you want with your money, you just can't spend more than you make. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

My credit card debt is still manageable, which is why I'd like to do this now instead of letting things get out of control. I'd like to start saving up for major purchases in advance, instead of buying first and paying off later. But first things first, learning to work with the budget. I'll keep you posted as I go along. It's day one and already there is $11.70 in the laptop fund and I've earned my first $10 from the exercise fund, I'm pretty excited!

Here are a couple of links, in case you want to try something like this out for yourself:



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