Last month I explained that we had achieved our 2009 savings goals. So I approached Ninja Hubz to discuss what we should start doing with our "extra" money for the rest of the year. I expected at least some sort of battle. See, Ninja Hubz likes stuff. Usually, its expensive stuff (with blinky lights and lots of buttons - usually it makes a lot of noise too). I hate stuff. I've been working all year to get rid of stuff. Stuff needs to be cleaned and stored and dusted... I hate stuff! I wanted to start putting our extra money towards paying off the mortgage. Paying off the mortgage is good, because it doesn't require extra dusting :) Anyway, to my complete astonishment Ninja Hubz was 100% completely totally in agreement that extra money should go to the mortgage. Seriously, it was about a 12 second conversation. (I think I know why this was so easy, but that will be another post on compromise and budgeting.)
So, here's where we stand:
- NO non-mortgage debt
- Fully funded emergency fund
- Retirement savings on-track
- Enough in savings to buy a new car when we need it
- Working on paying off the mortgage early
That's why I coupon, and shopt the thrift stores, and wash/re-use zip-loc baggies, and bring my lunch every day when all my co-workers go out. I want financial freedom, and we just got 3 months closer to it :)
Well we did quite well controlling our spending. Total groceries was $174.70. I'm still budgeting $50/week ($200 for the month), but aiming for $45/week ($180 for the month). And I did it! My "other household" category actually showed a profit due to almost no spending and some rebates coming in.
As usual, we had some unplanned expenses come up - one of the Ninja Pups went to the vet for a dental cleaning, and we paid for half of rebuilding the fence between our house and the neighbors. These are the types of expenses I know are going to come, I just don't know exactly when. In last month's update I talked about trying to budget for these types of expenses, but I've decided not to worry about it for now.
Here's why: we have the monthly income to deal with most of these expenses without impacting other things. Basically, when these expenses come up it just means there is a little less for the "extra" savings or mortgage payment. I could set aside a little every month so it was already allocated for these costs, but here's the thing - I don't want any more money sitting around in low-interest accounts than I have to. If I have extra money this month, I want it all going towards the mortgage. If I have the extra expense next month, I can pay for it then, and just put less towards the mortgage that month.
This tactic probably won't work for everyone. If I had concerns that I would NOT have the extra money available when the expense occurred, I would start saving now. If I was less disciplined and thought we might blow the extra money on shiny things with blinky lights instead of putting it towards the mortgage, I would save it now. But basically, the money will do the most good right now if it goes to the mortgage (lowering future interest payments). I know I'll have more money when I need it, so its all good. This means I have to give up some of my control freak desires to know EXACTLY where every penny I ever earn will be spent for the next 10 years, but I should probably get over that anyway :)
We've found a lot of cheap and free activities to keep us entertained without spending a lot. We went hiking one Saturday, and took advantage of free museum day to visit the local botanical gardens. I've been faithfully using the library and Paperback Swap for all my reading and music needs.
Every little bit helps! Most of these things only take a few minutes here and there - just keeping track of receipts, washing out Coke cans, and goofing on the Internet during commercials. The extra money either goes for "wants" I would otherwise do without, or gets put toward the mortgage payment.
- Took in the recycling: $30.40
- Online surveys and other sites:
- Swagbucks: $10 in Amazon gift cards
- Online surveys (like Surveyhead, Opinion Outpost, Pinecone Research, Inbox Dollars): $3.00 check received
- MyCokeRewards: $5 Subway gift card
- FLEX spending reimbursement: $89 (my employer provides me with a certain amount of money for health benefits and lets me choose from several insurcance options. Since I choose the lowest cost insurance plans, there is leftover money each month that goes into a flexible spending account, and from that account I can get reimbursed for out of pocket medical spending like prescription co-pays and over the counter medications. And its all tax free!)
I've managed to take care of a few things that have been bugging me - I've done a DEEP cleaning on about 1/2 the bathroom (the really bad half - got the blinds and walls near the window clean), and some deep cleaning in the kitchen. I totally cleaned the inside of the fridge and reorganized my food cupboards so I could see what was in there. I found a lot of things that need to get used up and moved them to the front of the cupboards so I will SEE them. My goal is to plan at least 1 meal a week using boxed items that need to go! I think what has happened is that I've been moving towards preparing things from scratch as opposed to using boxed dinner kits or side dishes, so those items have languished in my cupboards. I will get them used up, and keep this all in my mind when I go shopping - I like to have one or two such things on hand for when I am rushed, but there is no need for 10 boxes of cheesy noodle dishes and 6 boxes of potato dishes when I usually use fresh potatoes or rice or make my own pasta sauces!
There's still more to do... there's always more to do. I will likely focus on yard work in October since it is now actually cool enough to go outside without fear of bursting in to flames.
Saving the best for last... I had my annual performance review at work and if all goes well with the HR gods, I will be getting a merit pay increase! Yay! This is especially good since we did not get a cost of living increase this year due to the economy. Not sure of my math after taxes, but this should mean a couple hundred dollars more a month to put towards the mortgage!
Good luck in October!