You know what else has been going on this summer? BTW - anyone else feel like this summer has lasted a year already? I feel like time slowed waaayyy down. Like, not 'lazy hazy crazy days of summer' slow, but I mean woo-woo slow. July and August lasted so long - I couldn't believe it when it was STILL only August 8th and man. I know it sounds crazy (you ARE reading my blog, remember?) but anyone? *tap tap* is this thing on? only me? ok then.
At the very first of July, I took over our finances. I have been meaning/threatening to do this FOR EVER. I was doing it in Maryland, and then we moved back to SD, and REASONS. Let's be clear here - Jeff is ACES at paying the bills. Everything was current, never late, never forgotten. But we had no savings (I mean, ZERO) and the last day before payday was always sort of harrowing. San Diego is so fucking expensive - our 2-bedroom apartment is $2,100 A MONTH (yeah, thinking of moving to cheaper.) And I finally got the courage (?) to *yoink* the reins away from him and take it all over.
And, y'all. I DON'T WORK. I mean, aside from the half-assed myopic dusting I give this house every now and then, and the weak pale ennui-like vacuuming I might do (trailing a tragic scarf behind, talking in a soft Southern accent the whole time) - what the hell am I GOOD for? har. So we discussed, and Jeff sort of didn't want to let go, and I sort of didn't want to FIGHT about it, and then I finally said I'M TAKING CONTROL and he said FINE BUT I'VE GOT MY EYE ON YOU and we both crossed our arms and 'humphed' and I went to work on a budget tracker.
This tracker. OH MY. It brings a tear to my eye, it is so pretty. Excel finance trackers are what I did when I was working at the clinical trials management place. Absolutely rudimentary formulas - nothing beyond what a 4th grader could understand, but so functional. Color coded, even.
My goal was a zero-balance budget. Meaning, every single dollar is assigned a job, and that is that. Jeff gets paid at weird times - his retirement comes in on the 1st, then his company pays employees on the 7th and 22nd - I ASK YOU. Whut in the hell kind of dates are those? So I had to get the absolute due-date for each of our bills, and then assign it to whichever payday needed. I split our rent out among all 3 paydays and allotted some to a SAVINGS ACCOUNT <--(I'm flushed just thinking about it) and left a balance in checking of about $50. Enough to keep the account floating but not enough to spend on anything.
Whatever isn't paid through the bank/websites, comes out in cash. We each get an allowance. There is a grocery budget. There is a 'fun fund' for dinners out. and that is that. I bought colored envelopes for our cash - like these:
and wrote "GROCERIES" or "JEFF" etc. on each one that we needed (we have spares, lots of spares I didn't need 20 of them but thanks, ebay seller!) (it does not escape me that I bought special envelopes for saving money THAT'S HOW I ROLL YO). Once the money in say, my envelope is gone? It's gone, no more until next payday. I have had to learn to budget myself too - like pedicures or hair appointments or fancy shampoo. There is nothing but what is in your envelope. (It's hard, so hard, to learn delayed gratification at 53 but good news! it can be forced down your own throat). Jeff has to pay for haircuts and his gas out of his own allowance, stuff like that. We are absolutely NOT using credit cards at all anymore. I want all loans/credit cards paid off and ShUT DOWN except for possibly one, for Jeff's work travel and car rentals, and for emergencies of a huge nature.
The grocery thing was sort of tough at first. We went whenever we needed something. Just sort of decided what to eat for dinner that day and went and bought it and of course extra stuff. So I needed a plan. I tried the commissary on the base, but it's sort of far away and with the gas to get there and the surcharge they charge (altho we pay no tax on base) it didn't work out to be much savings. Walmart for groceries is surprisingly skimpy. Lots and lots of packaged food like Pop Tarts but almost no meat department! At least, the one near my house. Plus, Walmart. So I straightened my spine and made sure my phone was charged up (Pandora radio, the introverts best friend) and soldiered my way into Food 4 Less - a low-end grocery store. It is awful. And wonderful. I made a list, kept a running total on my calculator app on my phone, avoided the bat-crap crazy people as best I could, and man. I take back MOST of the bad things I said about Food 4 Less. I can get almost a month's worth of beef/chicken/pork PLUS all the other stuff for under $200. It's not organic. It's not top butcher AAA quality. But it's food, and it's 'fresh', and you know what else? IT'S FINE.
I come home and portion out the meat and freeze what I'm not using right away. I started buying more frozen veggies like green beans and brussels sprouts because I always bought fresh with the best of intentions, and then wasted more than I cooked. This way, no waste. I can get back to organic/fresh/healthiest once my budget is healthier.
ALSO - I started recycling our cans/plastic water bottles etc. for the cash. THAT is not a fun day, let me tell you. The line at the place can be LONG with lots of uh, ripe crazy homeless peeps but they are polite in their insanity! and I get between $15 and $20 every month or so, and I add that into the grocery budget for a steak dinner surprise for Jeff. I have turned into this weird frugal person - if someone leaves a bag of coke/beer cans near the dumpster in our parking garage, I grab that mo fo YOU BETCHA. If there is a case of beer bottles near the top? GRAB. The trunk of my pretty car smells like HELL but you know what? I DO NOT CARE. I almost (almost) have no pride when it comes to this. I'm working my way out of debt, and I am WORKING it.
(for an example of frugal craziness - I have started saving all my chicken bones in a zip loc in the freezer. With that I also toss in tops of onions that I cut, any veggie trimmings at all, tops off garlic cloves, etc. Carrot tops, whatever. Once the baggie is full, toss that stuff into a pot, cover with water add spices/salt/pepper and simmer for a bit, bones and all. Cool, strain and et voila! You have home made chicken stock FOR FREE. I freeze it in a cupcake tin, and then store those in a separate zip loc and I then have easy peasy stock for steaming rice or making gravy or whatevs. See? FRUGAL like a cheap bastard, but I love it when I get something free.)
We already have almost $1,000 in savings! I have been paying a HUGE chunk to one loan, and it will be paid off (PAID OFF) on the 7th of October. The battery on my car went out last weekend and we had cash - WE HAD CASH - to pay the guys at Firestone to put in a new one. I am so proud of us.
I have projected our bills out to the end of next year - which is funny because life always slaps you on the back of the head if you try and plan TOO far, but it is much better to have a plan than to just flail through life. And the fact that we have savings now, and will continue to add to it every payday (sometimes only $50 a payday, but it adds up!) means we will be prepared to handle most emergencies easily. And the fact that I am paying down the balance on our credit cards with Thor's Big Fucking Hammer means that a BIGGER emergency isn't going to send us off into a tail spin.
|(Thor is HAWT but has crazy eyes. Picture my debt there where that poor guy's head is)|
While I was still in Maryland, I started decluttering my life and apartment. I keep sorting and tossing and weeding out. I wish we were mechanically inclined at ALL, because I would love to buy an RV/motor home and live in that. I am so done with stuff. And this ties right on in with that. I don't shop for 'fun'. When we went to Vienna, I did buy some nicer vacation clothes, probably (likely) too many, but those will last me forever. Especially since A: I don't work at an office job (or, you know, any job that pays a paycheck) and B: San Diego weather is pretty consistent. I can wear a sweatshirt with my new-ish capris in the 'winter'. Plus, C: I love thrift stores and Jeff is the proud owner of many a silk embroidered Hawaiian shirt boughten for $5, and my addiction to Ann Taylor can be fed nicely at the Am Vets down by the airport.
This is long so I'll close with this. This is just another thing asshole parents do to you as a kid. They don't teach you anything USEFUL in life. Nobody ever sat down with me and discussed IRAs and interest rates and pitfalls of credit cards or how to buy a car and never buy a NEW car or anything remotely useful. They only want to hobble you. Teaching you how to spend or save money, how to actually CLEAN a house, keep to a budget, check the oil in your car - there are a million ways they keep you down so they can laugh and sneer at you later. Keep your chin(s) up, if you're just starting the path to freedom. You aren't alone. And you aren't crazy. They did it on purpose.
They did it on purpose.