Monday, December 30, 2013

Be your own financial genius! :)

I'm the CFO of my household.. my sweetie brings in the money but it's my job to keep us fed with a roof over our heads. When I decided to tackle our finances I searched for months to find the perfect system to implement. While no system is perfect I really needed one that would make sense for years to come and that wouldn't be terribly painful. I merged Dave Ramsey and Jeff Yeager and this is what I came up with. Both had great ideas but each needed tweaking to suite us.. So here's the plan.

To start off with I need to know where the money goes and why. This doesn't mean we'll have more money at the end of the month but it does mean that I'll at least know why we're broke. Mr. CBB came to the rescue with this great excel program! I saw something similar to this that would cost me $60 but this one is free. I love free! Once you know where the money goes, find even the tiniest bit to put towards bills.

Now that I know where the money goes, it's time to put it to work. Sorry Dave Ramsey but envelopes and paying cash just doesn't cut it in my house. Paying cash for groceries when I'm debt free is something I can envision but not right now. I will say that I did take the snowball idea from Dave but I tweaked it. I started out with the smallest amount due just to get it out for the way. Then I looked at all my bills, the interest I'll be paying and any promotional things that will wear off. Zero interest will only last for so long and then there's usually a crazy interest rate that kicks in if you don't pay it off by a certain date. Yeah, that kind of stuff comes next! That stuff gets paid off first..before the promotion wears off or as close to it as I can get.

So now I've taken care of the small nagging bills and the secretly expensive ones..moving on! From here it's all about interest verses amount. Most of my bills have the same interest rate (sadly) so I went with the smallest amount first. Build the list of things to attack. I used an App called "Debt Payoff Assistant" (free) for this.  

While you're at it remember things like income tax. Use last years income tax as a template assuming things have stayed the same for the most part. Take that amount and subtract out items like car registration fees and make a note to yourself to put the money in savings. The rest is not for free spending! You guessed it, it goes towards your debt.

Let's assume you've accomplished your goal and you're debt free..or at least only have a car and house payment left in the way of financial obligation bills. This is where Jeff Yeager comes in. While this next bit isn't 100% his idea, it's a culmination of tips in his book "The Cheapskate Next door" as I interpret them.

This plan basically helps you be bulletproof in terms of being unprepared for financial drama. Aside form your usual checking account you'll need to open four savings accounts. Hear me out… :)

Account 1 This is the main account that you'll be paying any bills you do have from here and groceries..the normal stuff

Account 2 Do a little research and find out the current unemployment rate in your area. For my area it's 8% so that means that in this account I need 8 months of current living expenses. Don't panic! We're not talking 8 months of the financial mess you have now, I'm talking 8 months of the new debt free needs for living. This account is your emergency funds and won't be saved up in one lump sum.
If you had to, you could live off this but it's not meant to. It's meant for "we need to replace the fridge".."I need new glasses" type of stuff. Add to it often. This is the perfect home for those holiday bonuses.

Account 3 How much would it cost to pay off your car? Now take 20% of that amount and put it in this account. This account is for auto repairs. I felt it was important to not take something so vital from the emergency fund for the rest of life's things. You can't afford to not get the car fixed.

Account 4 This is the medical account. Take a look at your insurance. Find that crazy per person deductible amount, yep..that one.. It's likely $1,000 per person. Now multiple that by how many people you have in your house. That's the number that goes in this account. This is for paying out of pocket medical expense! :)

Okay, so now we've covered the monthly stuff, the "oh Sh*t!" random stuff, the car repairs and the medical headaches.. Now to the fun stuff!

Account 5 This is the travel/fun fund. When you start setting aside money for Christmas, birthdays or road goes here. :) Why? We learned years ago how great this account is. When you travel
and start swiping that card for gas, food and fun it's great to know that none of this swiping fun comes out of your monthly bill money. When the money is gone..that's plan accordingly.

If you have a spouse I highly recommend an "I love you" checking account for him/her. This is where you set aside some money (maybe half of the fun fund to keep it simple) and put it in the account for them. This way they can freely spend and it won't mess up this beautiful plan you have. It's simply a way to say "I love you and you work so hard, treat yourself."

So there you have it! All the major life stuff is accounted for and you have a safety net for it all! You can enjoy your debt free life and breathe easier :) It won't be done overnight but it'll be worth it. Honestly it's my goal and I hope it's yours too. Except for the regular account and travel fund I recommend making the other accounts savings accounts. This way you earn interest and you can easily transfer money from them as needed. It also cuts down on clutter in your wallet. :) The best way to pull off this plan is to figure out what you need for only the household bills. Anything that's not in that category gets automatically deposited into your other accounts (talk to your bank about getting this done). If your bank has a limit on transfers a month, this is great way to get around that. This assumes you have a set amount every paycheck, like a salary paycheck. If you don't them, take the "leftover" funds and divide them equally into each account.

I know this seems like a lot of work and yes, at first it will be but once you set it up and see it working you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner. Stick it out! You won't be sorry :)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Retirement state of mind

I feel like my last post needed some explanation. Our master goal is to work smarter, not harder in the areas that we can. Short of winning the lotto we have to work to pay bills but we can change what we're working towards.

We live off one income, we also have and it's something that works for our family. My job is to make the most of that pay. This year the focus is on making that pay work smarter by having less for it to cover. Yes, at first it's not going to be easy..that's to be expected. It's going to take time, no quick fix here! Over time the paycheck will have less to cover and go farther by nature.

In terms of the house, it's a catch 22. We'll be living here for at least the next year while I focus on making the bills smaller. I'd love to move at the same time but we need to keep in mind this will take baby steps to work properly. We can't afford a move, rent, mortgage and focus on debt reduction all at the same time. So, bills first..then the house :(

Most people won't understand our housing decision, that's okay. Yes I know home ownership is supposed to be the American dream but not for us. For us, home ownership is labor we don't have time for, repairs we don't have the money for and a yard no one uses. Our money and time is better spent renting where repairs and labor are someone else's worry, the yard is someone else's concern and we can simply enjoy our place. I'm aware that we might not like the neighbors..that happens anywhere. And yes I know we're going to pay more monthly but we're willing to pay for amenities to enjoy and not worry about the upkeep. Honestly we don't have room for a pool or gym and even if we did they'd just be another thing we'd be trying to pay off and something else to take care of. There's just no point in that. We'd rather it all be included in the rent :) No, I won't be able to "put my stamp on everything" and I'm completely okay with that. I don't need to paint walls, tile backslashes or install a floor to feel like a live in my space. Personal artwork, furniture and memories will do that just fine. We have zero desire for renovation at this point in our lives. We bought this house with great expectations and have realized we wanted someone else's dream.. ours is less complicated. :)

In essence my goal for my sweetie and I is to live in a retirement state of mind…as little stress in the way of housing and bills as possible..more money in savings and security. I want to go on vacation to see family and worry less about..everything! At the end of my plan our only commitments that involve our dally life will come with early termination fees if we choose. That's freedom!  I'm well aware that this all won't go off without glitches..something is bound to go wrong. I expect it..that's why it's a 3-5 year for trouble.  I'll keep you posted on how all this planning plays out in the real world. Keep watching in 2014 :)

Do any of you lovely readers have a giant plan underway?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Master Plan

Next month is a turning point. It's the beginning of a new year for sure but for me it's also the beginning of a plan I've been working towards for months.
I have lovingly called in my Master Plan. :)

This plan sounds simpler than it is. I'm going to undo the mess of this past year financially by finding all the flaws. I will track in detail every penny and where we are over spending. Knowing this I will dedicate the available funds to getting out of debt! This entire plan will take 3-5 yrs but it includes paying off two cars, all various financial obligations and student loans. Among this will also be selling the house. :)

To help me with this I'll be using a financial tracker from and teaching myself to help stretch my money farther.

By 2019 I will be rid of the follow:

  • A house payment (renting better suites our lifestyle)
  • 2 car payments (leaving me free to save cash for a new car if I want)
  • Credit card payments
  • Furniture/appliance payments
  • Entertainment electronics payments
  • Medical bill payments
  • Student loan payments
So what will this mean? It will mean that excluding rent (since I have no idea what that will cost) and fuel (since that depends on travel needs)Taking into account what we currently pay in utilities, cell phone, insurance and groceries we will pay $851 a month instead of around $1,700+ ! That's a savings of about $863 a month-- over 10K a yr!

And no, I'm not worried about needed credit for a good credit score. Paying my rent and utilities on time does the job just fine. :)

So why is it called the Master Plan? Well, it's a play on words really.. with this plan in action by the time I'm 40 I will be the master of my future..not the banks! I will have no true financial obligations to anyone except if I chose to have a contract for my cell and tv/internet. No more mortgage to tie me down, no more outrageous interest rates! It won't be easy or pleasant at times but it's more than worth it! 

Join me! Make your own master plan and free yourself from that long list of bills that keep you up at night!