Monday, April 19, 2010


Friday, after writing the post about financial issues, I went home and started writing down on a piece of paper the bills *as I see them*. This ended up being the important key here. Before I was trying to force my brain to accept things as Mr. Knitty saw them or as financial planners or budget tools saw them.

I came up with three categories:
Regular bills: these are bills I get on paper or electronically that happen every month or every other month. These are things I expect; mortgage, utilities, phone.

Regular Variable bills: These are things that happen every month but vary some; groceries, gas for the car, new clothes, home improvement.

Irregular Bills aka "Nasty Surprises": These are things that I'm not expecting, even if I should be. Medical bills. Car insurance (twice a year is too infrequent for me to remember to do it). home repairs. Car repairs.

Then I started writing how much each typically costs in each category. Regular bills were easy. Regular Variable were tougher, but not too hard. Irregular bills I decided to treat as one "lump", and to set aside an amount of money that seemed to be a "high average" of how much they seemed to be.

I also set aside $100 to be automatically deducted and put in my savings account.

Now the execution has always been a sticking point for me. Sure it looks great on PAPER but when the bills come and the money's gone, it's not always easy to figure out why. So I have three accounts now. Each month, a "lump" of money goes into the "Irregular" account, to be set aside against emergencies. "Regular" expenses come straight out of the main account. "Regular Variable" and "Irregular" expenses go on the credit card. We will be keeping close watch on that credit card to make sure it doesn't go over the allotted amount. Then the money can be transferred to cover each category of expenses.

Wow, I'm seeing how this sound SUPER complicated when I describe it, although visually it made perfect sense. Maybe that's why I find other people's systems overly complicated.

Anyhoo, I'm really proud of myself. I figured "I'm a college grad, i SHOULD be able to figure this out!" And I did!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Personal Finance

Okay folks, I admit it, I need help.

I have no idea how to manage my money.

I have two modes of operation; Buy Everything I Want Because We Shouldn't Have To Feel Poor and We Are Destitute I am Not Spending a Single Goddamn Penny.

Unfortunately, as with many parts of my life, I am plagued by my extremist nature. As my great grandmother drove---flat out or stopped dead, I try to manage my money.

It used to be easier. When we first got married, we put both paychecks in the checkbook and paid our bills from that. We had a big savings account from our wedding gifts and so anything else we wanted we used our credit cards and then paid them off with the savings account.

Well, after 7 years of doing that, plus buying a new house, renovating said house, etc, that savings account, while not dry, is no longer the bottomless well it once appeared to be. And now, even though we make more, the money just seems to be sliding out the door when I'm not looking.

I've tried all the things I'm supposed to do. I tried being utterly frugal and paying only cash and not buying a damn thing we didn't desperately need. Then I felt stressed and anxious all the time. I was so worried about 12 cents here or there that I couldn't relate to the big picture. We'd skip inexpensive, pleasurable things because it "cost too much". So I tried relaxing and just purchasing what I saw fit--and the result of that of course was unchecked spending.

I tried figuring out my fixed expenses for the year, dividing it by 12, and setting aside that amount per month. Unfortunately, that's like another bill! If I could afford to set aside $600/month I wouldn't be derailed by a $600 bill and need to plan for it by setting money aside!

All the personal finance advice out there centers around saving 15 cents by brewing your own coffee at home or the best way to invest. I need something in the middle. I need to know how to pay bills on time. How to not forget that things like insurance and stuff are coming. How to remember how much I spent in a day. How to set aside money and save when your account is already overdrawn. How to deal with necessities that come up after all the money has been spoken for. How to deal with the fact that I put aside $40 and then have a $500 bill come up.

I'm sure I must have learned this shit somewhere---why can't I figure it out no matter how many books I read and no matter how many things I try?