Author Topic: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending  (Read 27212 times)

1967mama

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #50 on: August 05, 2017, 11:43:42 AM »
Good to read this thread today from start to finish. Your mindset has changed so much already. Following with interest! Looking forward to seeing how you ramp things up in the coming months!

galliver

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #51 on: August 07, 2017, 10:41:01 AM »
I really think cutting the eating out habit is like building a muscle - you get stronger the more you work at it.  We had a really challenging week and were so tempted by take out, but I either pushed through and made dinner or went with a quick and low effort plan B.

I've had a few lunches from the work cafeteria due to poor planning, but I'm getting better at that too.  Just one this past week!

I'm feeling really hopeful after a long time of feeling discouraged.

Random question: what do you do about gifts?  We were invited to a wedding we couldn't attend and I would usually send a gift, and I'm also going to a housewarming tomorrow.  I've tried to think about frugal options, but this is the type of problem that I usually solve by throwing money at it.
For the housewarming, I like the dessert idea, though I have personally found sweets are less appreciated than they used to be (though perhaps part of the problem is they are very abundant around Christmas, which is when I have mostly tried to gift them). As an alternative, I like to give something I've found really freakin' useful, or nice/pleasant, from a discount store like Homegoods. Too many people (in my life, anyway) don't have knife sharpeners or wine glasses... And you can get those for $10 or less!

For weddings, I think giving a gift lines up with my values so I don't mind spending on it. Though I would not feel obligated to give very much if I was not going... And I'd feel ok to give nothing (maybe would send a card) if we didn't really know the couple well.

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Malum Prohibitum

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #52 on: August 12, 2017, 11:19:49 AM »
I really think cutting the eating out habit is like building a muscle - you get stronger the more you work at it.
100% true, but this is one of your biggest expenses.

My wife loves to cook, and she is very good at it.  My kids are frequently disappointed (as are we) if we go out to restaurants, because the food is not as good as what we eat at home.  This makes it a little easier to eat at home.

In addition, I eat something like a bodybuilder's diet.  This means two lunches brought to work.  Restaurants really can't fulfill my dietary needs, and eating out gets me off track.

bocopro

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #53 on: August 14, 2017, 04:11:22 PM »
1 - Wow! You have such a nice attitude and have made some serious changes already!

2 - Looks like you and Spouse have within ~$400 or so of our monthly income (we're grazing $11,250 - so right in the same boat.) Like you, I'm trying to rein in our sort of reckless spending (which, to me, is $3k/mo - no kids yet! -  but we all still suck, right?)

3 - Your house situation actually sounds awesome, to me! I don't even want to tell you what we paid for our place - a condo - in a super HCOL area - 3x our income. Re: HOAs - I know they get a lot of flack (and, mostly well-deserved) around the MMM crew. There are, IMO, some good cases for HOAs. I'm in one - it's "low" for the area - $300 - and covers home insurance, heat, water, sewer, garbage, an indoor garage, and all maintenance. Plus, I've never once devoted a weekend to "yard work," exterior painting, replacing burst pipes, etc. (These things are all character building and not bad, per se, but we're just working towards side businesses and other self-improvement (marathons)). You sound like you've got a great gig going.

4 - I agree on the SAHM/D thing - not for everyone (not for me). You ARE getting benefit from your workplace.

5 - That's high on food. Really high. I recommend the "Sunday cook-off" - a two hour bonanza where Spouse and I cook approximately 25 fried eggs, 10 slices of cheddar, two pounds of breakfast potatoes (hello, breakfast bowl - add salsa/avocado for yum,), five high-cal salads, five pasta bowls with meat (Spouse can subsist on a million carbs - I cannot.) into tons of containers. This is actually very annoying to accomplish, as there's at least four things going at any one time - BUT - 10 meals made - and healthy - it's worth it. Don't start complicated - start with turkey sandwiches. Buy 10 apples. Buy Trader Joes salads, if you have to - just start somewhere.

6 - Embrace minimalism, casually. If you can handle slight cleaning-based-lunacy, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a fun quick read. If you just pull a casual bit of her advice - go through your closet, your bookshelves, your junk drawer (I'm assuming everyone has one of these), your garage, etc. and really take stock and what you have, and what you can toss. It's freed up a lot of resting anxiety for me, that stems from being surrounded by piles of owned belongings (baggage.) It helps with the wallet too - the Amazon spending may go down!

7 - Keep kicking butt!

« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 04:13:12 PM by bouldertechwarrior »

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #54 on: August 23, 2017, 12:59:31 PM »
Still here, still plugging along.

YNAB has been eye opening and makes spending money feel more "real".  I found a few lurking categories I hadn't accounted for - parking and tolls and car registration were the ones that popped up this month.  We're both doing a ton better and also still spending a lot.  Definitely baby steps, but I think that's our speed given how much we have gotten used to the ease of spending away discomfort/tiredness/busyness.

We haven't managed to get rid of the storage unit yet, simply because it's going to take some time and effort, but it's next on the list.

I'll be back at the end of the month to post our numbers if anyone is still interested.

CrashnBurn

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #55 on: August 23, 2017, 01:30:02 PM »
Keep us posted! Glad you stuck with YNAB!
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

ice1717

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #56 on: August 25, 2017, 01:57:50 PM »

I'd happily stay out of Target forever, but we do need formula and cat litter and cat food.  DH did Target this weekend and did stick to the list, and we got a lot of formula so we don't need to go back until next month.
[/quote]

If your needed items at target are consistent, can you auto purchase on a recurring schedule only the things you need? Saves time, 5% discount, free shipping, and no non-list temptation spending.

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #57 on: August 30, 2017, 09:06:51 PM »
If your needed items at target are consistent, can you auto purchase on a recurring schedule only the things you need? Saves time, 5% discount, free shipping, and no non-list temptation spending.

This is a great idea - all the items I need are available this way so I set it up.  Thanks!

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #58 on: August 30, 2017, 09:42:59 PM »
Ugh, the verdict is in for monthly spending (tomorrow will be no spend) and it's still not pretty.

Food (posted spending in case study - $1474/month)
Groceries - $543
Restaurants - $518
Alcohol - $73
Subtotal - $1113

The Category formerly known as Target/Amazon (posted spending - $758/month)
Household Supplies - $26
Household Goods - $112 (a wagon for camping, flashlights, and a step stool)
Baby and Kid Supplies - $229 (mostly formula and diapers, I ordered next month's formula already because they were running a special)
Kid's Clothes - $29
Pet Food and Litter - $67
Gifts - $92 (wedding gift and niece's birthday)
Subtotal - $555

Travel - $532 (short four day vacation - one night of an Airbnb, two nights of family camp which included meals while we were there)
Pet sitting - $60

So yes, we did cut back, but it was baby steps rather than big dramatic cuts.  Restaurants was the one I was most disappointed in because we were doing so well at the beginning of the month and then things totally fell apart.  We went on a short vacation and ate out three meals on vacation (the rest were included at the camp we stayed at), and we had a birthday dinner for a friend that I didn't plan for and was more expensive than I would have liked.

I'm also a little surprised at how quickly the miscellaneous stuff adds up, especially the kid supplies.

I'm still not quite used to the "spend only what you earned last month" aspect of YNAB.  I am sure it gets easier as "True Expenses" are uncovered and funded, but right now the main function it is playing for me is seeing our resources are finite and I have to make choices.  I truly was not doing that before, and our income was high enough to smooth it all out, but we weren't making progress on our goals.

Tuskalusa

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #59 on: August 30, 2017, 10:19:52 PM »
Baby steps are ok. It's a good start in the right direction!

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #60 on: August 31, 2017, 12:55:35 AM »
...Restaurants was the one I was most disappointed in because we were doing so well at the beginning of the month and then things totally fell apart.  We went on a short vacation and ate out three meals on vacation (the rest were included at the camp we stayed at), and we had a birthday dinner for a friend that I didn't plan for and was more expensive than I would have liked.

I'm also a little surprised at how quickly the miscellaneous stuff adds up, especially the kid supplies.

You know you can do better on the restaurant spend, and you'll apply what you've learned next month. Things like a vacation can get you out of the good habits that you've been trying to form. Consider planning restaurant spending ahead for this month, or go cold turkey to make up for last month?

For the birthday dinner, sometimes this happens to us, and the money is worth it. But often, we can plan or influence things to keep the spend reasonable. Examples are suggesting a cheaper place, cooking at home whatever your friend's favourite dish is, hosting drinks at home and then drinking soft drinks out, bringing a cake and having it instead of desert.

Miscellaneous stuff is a killer. When I was in your stage of expenses tracking, I made a goal to reduce "miscellaneous" as much as possible, anything that wasn't in one of my planned spending categories was 'other'. I went through my statements and anything that I could remember what it was I made an effort to return or to not buy again. This included deleting my Amazon account details. The $10s here and there make a HUGE difference. I don't know if it is mindset or the actual number of dollars, but having a default position of "no, I don't buy that" makes a big difference to spending/saving.

channtheman

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #61 on: August 31, 2017, 03:28:01 AM »
For what it's worth, when my wife and I take a vacation we budget the estimated food costs into our vacation budget and already have it set aside.  So monthly expenditure would show vacation 750 dollars (including the cost of food) and food costs largely remain unchanged.  I didn't feel it was accurate to include 100-200 "special" restaurant spending in our food budget because it was only due to the vacation that we spent it.  The key is to budget for the vacation and save up for it and not impulsively spend more than you planned. 

dess1313

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #62 on: September 04, 2017, 03:14:07 AM »
Becoming aware is an important step in learning. 

For the travel part, that in my budget will also include food.  Restaurant spending during a trip gets lumped together with vacation categories. That way it doesn't throw off the rest of your projections/budget

To help reduce the cost, i'll pack a cooler of ice and drinks, as well as stuff like snacks, granola bars, jerky, chips, etc that travel well.  Even if i spend $50-100 before we set out, i'll save that 10x in avoiding eating out, expensive gas station food and drinks, or quickie meals at fast food chains. 

We often only eat one big meal out a day, usually supper.  Breakfast is spent in our room on snacks and breakfast type things.  Muffins, granola bars, dried fruit, etc.  And for lunch we often just nibble snacks, or buy something small if we do purchase food since we will have had a big breakfast.
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Villanelle

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #63 on: September 04, 2017, 03:28:52 AM »
I really think cutting the eating out habit is like building a muscle - you get stronger the more you work at it.  We had a really challenging week and were so tempted by take out, but I either pushed through and made dinner or went with a quick and low effort plan B.

I've had a few lunches from the work cafeteria due to poor planning, but I'm getting better at that too.  Just one this past week!

I'm feeling really hopeful after a long time of feeling discouraged.

Random question: what do you do about gifts?  We were invited to a wedding we couldn't attend and I would usually send a gift, and I'm also going to a housewarming tomorrow.  I've tried to think about frugal options, but this is the type of problem that I usually solve by throwing money at it.

Gifts are a place where I tend to be generous, as that's in line with my values.  But I also don't have debt and am overall satisfied with my financial picture.  I wouldn't send a gift if the invite was from some fairly distant person with whom I don't feel especially close, but if I care about them, then get a nice gift.  If you have any craft or other skills, you might consider some sort of homemade gift.  Or look at card cash and the other online gift card resellers and see what you can come up with at a decent discount.

For the work lunches, I kept a can of soup or other self-stable lunch in my desk at all times.  If I didn't plan, I could grab the soup (tuna packet, whatever). 

zoe2dot

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #64 on: September 07, 2017, 06:24:00 PM »
Keep up the good work!
I've just started my own financial  analysis and am taking note of the tips offered to you.
Love that you've updated several times.

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #65 on: September 22, 2017, 04:03:40 PM »
I have fallen off the first page.  I need $800k in debt or something so that this case study is more interesting!

I set up a "no lunches or snack spending at work" challenge for myself and went 14 days with zero spend!!!  Finally broke my streak yesterday because I had a meeting after work and needed a snack to keep me going.  But not bad.  The trick has been that I brought some of those shelf stable Indian food pouches to work to serve as a backup when I didn't pack a lunch, and a box of trail mix packets for afternoon snacks.  I was able to put $200 of my $300 "fun money" into Betterment this month.

We're doing pretty good on grocery and restaurant spending this month too, but I don't want to jinx it with eight days left in the month.

Laura33

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #66 on: September 22, 2017, 08:10:19 PM »
I have fallen off the first page.  I need $800k in debt or something so that this case study is more interesting!

I set up a "no lunches or snack spending at work" challenge for myself and went 14 days with zero spend!!!  Finally broke my streak yesterday because I had a meeting after work and needed a snack to keep me going.  But not bad.  The trick has been that I brought some of those shelf stable Indian food pouches to work to serve as a backup when I didn't pack a lunch, and a box of trail mix packets for afternoon snacks.  I was able to put $200 of my $300 "fun money" into Betterment this month.

We're doing pretty good on grocery and restaurant spending this month too, but I don't want to jinx it with eight days left in the month.

First:  Lol.  :-)

Second:  congrats!  Breaking habits like that is a big shift.  I too rely on things like a jar of peanut butter and nuts and dried fruit at work for when I inevitably forget lunch.
Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

farfromfire

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #67 on: September 23, 2017, 02:13:17 AM »
I have fallen off the first page.  I need $800k in debt or something so that this case study is more interesting!

I set up a "no lunches or snack spending at work" challenge for myself and went 14 days with zero spend!!!  Finally broke my streak yesterday because I had a meeting after work and needed a snack to keep me going.  But not bad.  The trick has been that I brought some of those shelf stable Indian food pouches to work to serve as a backup when I didn't pack a lunch, and a box of trail mix packets for afternoon snacks.  I was able to put $200 of my $300 "fun money" into Betterment this month.

We're doing pretty good on grocery and restaurant spending this month too, but I don't want to jinx it with eight days left in the month.
Congrats on the progress. Now do something badass and make your own cheap trail mix.

Meesh

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #68 on: September 23, 2017, 09:56:59 AM »
You seem to be making big strides congratulations.

The stocked food for lunch is a great idea. You might want to keep a few snack type things in the car too. Sometimes I'm out with the kiddo and we get hungry and a granola bar, an apple and juice box goes along way to curb fast food.

I agree that slow and steady wins the race. Making small changes is how you stick to it. I like to play the "Beat last month" game by category. Can I get restaurants further down from last month? What about groceries? etc etc. If I kill it one month then it makes it that much harder the next and every win is more satisfying and more creative. Over time you will slowly start to see some awesome changes.

In your original post you asked about SAHMs and you seem to have gotten some great advice. And as a SAHM I'm actually going to agree with them. If you want to work, work! I chose to stay at home but that was a family choice and considered a priority for us (DH even took off a year to help when our son was born). I am not even remotely domestic, my house is a mess and I don't know how to cook rice BTW but we wanted a parent at home so we made it work. Because you asked... If you wanted to you could put 11k in trad IRAs (regular and spousal) and a bit less than 7k in an HSA and it would be similar to having a maxed 401k, but you'd still need health insurance (and it would need to be HSA compatible). But you sound like you like to work. So don't stop.

*edit: woops! didn't realize you were already doing trail mix lol awesome job.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2017, 01:42:20 PM by Meesh »

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #69 on: September 23, 2017, 12:54:37 PM »
I have fallen off the first page.  I need $800k in debt or something so that this case study is more interesting!

I set up a "no lunches or snack spending at work" challenge for myself and went 14 days with zero spend!!!  Finally broke my streak yesterday because I had a meeting after work and needed a snack to keep me going.  But not bad.  The trick has been that I brought some of those shelf stable Indian food pouches to work to serve as a backup when I didn't pack a lunch, and a box of trail mix packets for afternoon snacks.  I was able to put $200 of my $300 "fun money" into Betterment this month.

We're doing pretty good on grocery and restaurant spending this month too, but I don't want to jinx it with eight days left in the month.
Congrats on the progress. Now do something badass and make your own cheap trail mix.

Heh, I love this!  I am going to do it.

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #70 on: September 27, 2017, 01:35:36 PM »
Small updates: I am eating an Aldi protein bar from my stash for lunch at my desk while I write this.  I was feeling sorry for myself so I decided to post because coming here is always good for making me feel like I am a wimp and need to be more badass.

We have no money left in the gas category and the car is empty.  I'm trying to decide if I convince DH to not drive on Saturday so we can fill up on 10/1 or just break my budget and fill up now.  It is well within our capabilities to not use the car on Saturday, but he'll think I'm being silly.

DH messed up our internet contract.  Comcast convinced him upgrading would be a few dollars less and then the taxes and fees made it almost $20 more.  I saw it post in YNAB and was like "waaaaaaiiiiiiiit" and he called and got it fixed, and they are even adjusting it retroactively.  So we're back to our old package at our old price.

Novik

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #71 on: September 27, 2017, 01:46:30 PM »
We have no money left in the gas category and the car is empty.  I'm trying to decide if I convince DH to not drive on Saturday so we can fill up on 10/1 or just break my budget and fill up now.  It is well within our capabilities to not use the car on Saturday, but he'll think I'm being silly.

A bit artificial, but could you put say only 5$ in the car? It only makes sense if getting gas is quick/on your way, but if so, get just enough to get you through until Sunday if you think you can't convince DH. As an added bonus, I often find I drive more mindfully of gas mileage when the car is low on gas.
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Tuskalusa

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #72 on: September 27, 2017, 10:54:53 PM »
I get hung up on these things sometimes. I'd vote for putting gas in the car. Ive created these artificial barriers before, and all they did was make me (and my DH) crazy.

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #73 on: September 28, 2017, 12:52:05 AM »
Is there something in another budget that you can cut down on so that you can fuel the car?

In my mind, the whole point of the envelope/YNAB system is that when there is no money left in a category you make a cut back. Sure it will be a PITA to walk or cycle rather than drive, but this will save you money, and when you are using the car next month you will be more mindful of driving careful.

But you do you.

Villanelle

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #74 on: September 28, 2017, 03:08:07 AM »
I feel like if you just change the rules and let yourself spend more, there's not really any reason for having a budget, because it doesn't matter.  I think you need to train yourself that the limits are there for a reason, and you need to live within them.  The time to start thinking about the gas tank isn't on the 27th.  It's every week and every day that you make a decision to drive, or not.  Otherwise, when you run out of grocery money on the 21st of October, you'll just spend more because it is "silly".  And when your entertainment budget is gone on the 15th, you'll just spend more, because the delineations are arbitrary. 

Assuming your budget is reasonable, you didn't make good decisions this month, which means you have to live with the consequences of that.  Those are that you can't drive anywhere this weekend.  If you don't want that to happen next month, make better decisions.  Drive less, consolidate trips, accelerate and brake more slowly.  And by doing so, you won't end up in the same place on Ovt 27th.

Look at it like money overall.  When you spend all the money in your bank account, you need to stop spending until the next paycheck.  Same principles apply even when you divide that money up.  You've spent all your gas money, so you have none left to spend. 

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #75 on: September 28, 2017, 03:47:05 AM »
I get hung up on these things sometimes. I'd vote for putting gas in the car. Ive created these artificial barriers before, and all they did was make me (and my DH) crazy.

Tuskalusa's position is entirely reasonable for someone who has their financial shit together and isn't overspending like crazy.

With all the respect in the world for the progress made so far in this case study, our OP isn't there yet. Now is the time to look over the driving you've done this month and figure out how to do less next month. If there is literally no driving to cut, then the savings need to come from somewhere else.

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #76 on: September 28, 2017, 06:18:55 AM »
Is there something in another budget that you can cut down on so that you can fuel the car?

In my mind, the whole point of the envelope/YNAB system is that when there is no money left in a category you make a cut back. Sure it will be a PITA to walk or cycle rather than drive, but this will save you money, and when you are using the car next month you will be more mindful of driving careful.

But you do you.

Yeah, I do have money in other categories I could move.

I agree and to me it's sort of a symbolic commitment to not drive and cut back on driving next month to meet the budget.  Sure, I have the money to fill up the car, but it doesn't take any discipline to just break the budget.  The whole point of this is to plan better and cut back on unnecessary spending.  Filling up because it's more convenient to grocery shop on Saturday doesn't seem very badass.

zoe2dot

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #77 on: September 28, 2017, 06:48:23 AM »
My take is that at least you are thinking about it.  That's a huge step!
The awareness is starting.
I'm just starting to get to the place you are in awareness.
Keep us posted!

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #78 on: September 28, 2017, 07:18:38 AM »
Is there something in another budget that you can cut down on so that you can fuel the car?

In my mind, the whole point of the envelope/YNAB system is that when there is no money left in a category you make a cut back. Sure it will be a PITA to walk or cycle rather than drive, but this will save you money, and when you are using the car next month you will be more mindful of driving careful.

But you do you.
Yeah, I do have money in other categories I could move.

I agree and to me it's sort of a symbolic commitment to not drive and cut back on driving next month to meet the budget.  Sure, I have the money to fill up the car, but it doesn't take any discipline to just break the budget.  The whole point of this is to plan better and cut back on unnecessary spending.  Filling up because it's more convenient to grocery shop on Saturday doesn't seem very badass.

I haven't done YNAB properly: my understanding was that it was expected that you would move money between categories, and that this was fair game as long as the categories getting short changed weren't savings or debt repayment. For your implementation then you stick to the budgeted categories?

Given that the new month starts on the Sunday, unless it is impossible to do your grocery shopping later or on Saturday without the car then this seems a minor thing to break your rule for.

Stay strong, stay badass.

coffeefueled

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #79 on: September 28, 2017, 09:38:47 AM »
Buy gas. In YNAB this is called rolling with the punches. You drove a little more than you thought this month and need gas, so maybe this month you try harder not eat out, or you try a new budgetbites recipe to save on groceries, or realize you can skip buying something misc. and use what you have at home. Move money to where you need it then move on to next month.

The whole point of YNAB is that your budget isn't set in stone - it's about making conscious decisions about your priorities and spending to match them. ie If you need gas that becomes more of a priority than restaurants/alcohol. Maybe it makes you realize that you can lump errands together next month to save on driving or that you really do spend more than you thought on gas each month and need to adjust your budget to match.

BTW great job on the baby steps! Keep it up and don't get discouraged!

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #80 on: September 28, 2017, 11:05:20 AM »
[quote author=MustachedImposter link=topic=75950.msg1649428#msg1649428 date=1501900713

Random question: what do you do about gifts?  We were invited to a wedding we couldn't attend and I would usually send a gift, and I'm also going to a housewarming tomorrow.  I've tried to think about frugal options, but this is the type of problem that I usually solve by throwing money at it.
[/quote]

For housewarming and host(ess) gifts, I will usually give a homemade food item. Bread and salt are traditional housewarming gifts (something to sustain you and something to flavor life - it may actually be a traditional wedding gift  now that I think of it). I've also given jars of homemade jam, pickled beets, and wine. The bread and wine are by far the most popular. Given that I make wine for less than $3 a bottle, and that bread is nearly free to make, these are good gifts.  I think that most people prefer consumable gifts so that they don't have to store and display clutter for years to come.

Verdure

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #81 on: September 28, 2017, 11:24:27 AM »
Budgeting is ultimately about choices, so if you're worried that your husband will think it's weird not to go anywhere on Saturday, present it to him as a choice:

We have spent all the money we budgeted for gas. If we want to fill up, then we have to use money that was allocated for something else. So would you rather not drive anywhere this Saturday, or give up whatever amount ($20?) from the grocery, dining out or whichever category has extra.  If you don't have any category with extra, that's when you just stay home. If you do, no big deal to transfer amounts between categories.

Laura33

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #82 on: September 28, 2017, 12:08:40 PM »
Do whatever (a) doesn't feel like a cop-out and (b) your SO will tolerate.

Personally, I always viewed budget categories as flexible; if I had, say, a big pet expense one month, I'd just eat out less or whatever.  But some people need to treat them as hard limits, because bending one rule leads to bending another, and before you know it you've found excuses to blow way past the budget. 

I think you need to "feel" it somehow (this early on, you don't want to establish that it is ok to go over).  But if you choose to feel it by walking and delaying groceries, vs. knocking $25 off your grocery budget or whatever, that's up to you and your SO.
Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #83 on: September 30, 2017, 09:48:26 AM »
I put a few dollars in the tank and moved it from another category - that will get us through today and we'll plan better next month.

September spending

Food (case study $1474, last month $1113)
Groceries - $657
Eating out - $208
Alcohol - $82
Total - $947

Discretionary spending categories (case study $758, last month $555)
Household supplies - $93
Household goods - $24
Baby and kid supplies - $39
Kid's clothes - $95
Kids toys and books - $22
Kids gear - $61
Gifts - $60
Total - $394

Gas - $40
Entertainment - $48
Travel - $572
Pet sitting - $45
Babysitting - $60

Overall I'm proud of the progress we're making - we've cut our food and "other discretionary spending" substantially.  But there are so many surprises tracking in real time rather than retrospectively.  Groceries were high this month.  Some of that was at least twice when we got grocery store prepared foods for dinner, which is better than eating out but still $$$.  So it's not unexpected groceries would go up since we ate out so much less than usual, but there's still a ton of room for improvement.

I was also surprised we spent $95 on kids clothes - it was a bunch of small purchases that added up.  Underwear, a few long sleeve onesies, a jacket.  We're set for fall now, but both kids still need coats for winter so I'll plan for that.  The "gear" purchase was an LL Bean duffle bag for DS - they've raised the price $10 since we bought DD's.  It should last forever though.

We're going to an intro meeting for our neighborhood babysitting co-op in November, so hopefully we can reduce the babysitting expense and make some parent friends at the same time.

Travel spending should let up for a bit.  We decided not to go on a weekend trip in October because it would mean overspending our travel budget and we have trips in both November (Thanksgiving) and December (Christmas).  I got the Thanksgiving tickets with points, and bought the Christmas tickets a while ago during a Southwest sale.  We're staying with family, so the main expenses of those trips will be eating out and pet sitting.  I am looking for a free housesitter for the Christmas holiday as that would be a win win for everyone.

Thanks to everyone hanging in there with me - we are a far ways off from having real mustaches, but this case study has really changed my outlook.


Laura33

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #84 on: September 30, 2017, 02:36:36 PM »
I put a few dollars in the tank and moved it from another category - that will get us through today and we'll plan better next month.

. . . .

Overall I'm proud of the progress we're making - we've cut our food and "other discretionary spending" substantially.  But there are so many surprises tracking in real time rather than retrospectively.

1.  Well done.  You cut in every category, and you found a way to manage the gas while still holding yourself accountable. 

2.  And that's exactly why you do it!  Because it forces you to pay attention to how much all of those "little" things add up to, and how changes that can reduce costs in one area can increase costs in another -- and, frankly, how much your food and clothes and such really cost, so you can plan appropriately for what you need instead of constantly being surprised and behind.  It is all about giving you the knowledge you need to make choices that are aligned with your priorities.

Again, really well done.  Yes, of course you have more room to improve -- we all do, that's why we're here!  But you have made a lot of changes in very short order, which is frankly better than many people ever do.  Definitely give yourself credit for how far you have come already.
Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

Off the Wheel

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #85 on: September 30, 2017, 02:57:11 PM »
Loved reading this thread. We're a relatively high-income couple in a HCOL area, with no kids yet - but I totally relate and could see us in a similar boat in a few years. Going to follow along and see if I can learn from your experience! (I'm also going to try the 'no eating out at work' mission.)

Villanelle

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #86 on: October 01, 2017, 06:24:09 AM »
Such great progress!  I'm glad you are feeling proud because you are doing great. 

Also, analyzing what worked and what didn't is important each and every month.  For example, you bought prepared foods when time was short.  So now you know you need to find a better plan for this.  My suggestion would be to do a day or two each month of freezer cooking.  Pick a dish that freezes well and make that for dinner.  But make 3 instead of 1, and freeze the other two.  Things like lasagna, soups, and any casserole-type dish are perfect for this kind of thing.  It takes almost the same amount of time to make three times as much, but you end up with dinners that are ready to go.  When you know it's going to be a crazy night, pull out a lasagna in the morning, defrost, and it is ready to be popped in the oven and done in less than 30 minutes when you get home.  Soups are even faster as you don't have to remember to defrost.  Put the container in the microwave and go from frozen solid to dinner in about 10 minutes.  And again, this costs no real extra time. It's just a larger pot of the soup you were making for dinner anyway.  (As a bonus, soup is usually a pretty cheap meal.)

Do this at least twice a month and you should always have 3-4 meals frozen. 

Similarly, you were surprised about the kid clothing expense.  What can you do to change that?  Can you find a consignment--or better yet, thrift-- store near you for those coats, and for future clothing needs?  Can you ask around at your co-op to see if anyone has size X or Y coats they are looking to sell?

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #87 on: October 02, 2017, 02:19:54 AM »
Similarly, you were surprised about the kid clothing expense.  What can you do to change that?  Can you find a consignment--or better yet, thrift-- store near you for those coats, and for future clothing needs?  Can you ask around at your co-op to see if anyone has size X or Y coats they are looking to sell?

Can you encourage the kids to make friends with kids who are well dressed and slightly larger than they are? (mostly kidding).

Seriously, find families that you can exchange kids' clothing with. Not everything has to be new.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2017, 07:11:18 AM by Playing with Fire UK »

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #88 on: October 02, 2017, 06:22:42 AM »
Similarly, you were surprised about the kid clothing expense.  What can you do to change that?  Can you find a consignment--or better yet, thrift-- store near you for those coats, and for future clothing needs?  Can you ask around at your co-op to see if anyone has size X or Y coats they are looking to sell?

Can you encourage the kids to make friends with kids who are well dressed and slightly larger than they are? (mostly kidding).

Seriously, find families that you can exchange kids' clothing with. Not everything has to be new.

We already do this, but haven't had any luck for coats.  We have a 3T coat for next year though for DD.  I'll ask around and check thrift stores.

civil4life

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #89 on: October 02, 2017, 01:25:30 PM »
Just read through this today.

First Awesome Job!  Those are huge decreases in a couple of months.

Someone mentioned it earlier, but have you looked at Costco, Sams, or BJs?  I am guessing you would save with just formula and diapers alone.  For the diapers and formula are you making sure you get the best deal each time?  What is the shelf life of the formula?  How much in advance can you buy?  There are websites that tell you each week the best diaper deals.

Great job with the lunches and snacks at work!  That is an area I need to work on.  Maybe increase your back up so you are not running out.

Aldi’s is awesome.  Their protein bars are great.

Kids clothing - You mentioned it the end, but trying to find the things you need at thrift shops or craigslist.  I am guessing you live in affluent area.  That usually means the Goodwill have higher end selections and usually less worn.

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #90 on: October 02, 2017, 03:40:14 PM »
Someone mentioned it earlier, but have you looked at Costco, Sams, or BJs?  I am guessing you would save with just formula and diapers alone.  For the diapers and formula are you making sure you get the best deal each time?  What is the shelf life of the formula?  How much in advance can you buy?  There are websites that tell you each week the best diaper deals.

We used Costco formula with my first but my son can't tolerate it.  He's doing well on the Target brand sensitive and I stock up whenever they have a deal, but I could probably buy even more when there are good sales, since they aren't that frequent.  We only use disposable diapers at night, but I'll look into how to get the best deals.  One of my coworkers brings me diaper coupons, so that helps.

We have access to a Costco, but in the past it has sort of devolved into impulse shopping for convenience foods, so I didn't think it was actually saving money.  But it might be worth it for diapers if we can be disciplined.

civil4life

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #91 on: October 02, 2017, 04:56:18 PM »
One thing I forgot to mention.  Have you considered Groupons especially for the dining out, but various services like the cleaning.  Living social for travel.

Also for the cat litter-each year petco has a black friday deal for litter that is awesome.  I usually buy enough for the full year.

Target is a part of Ebates.  If you do not use it you need to check it out.  If you do sign up here is a link that I would get a referral credit.https://www.ebates.com/r/SARAHG2477?eeid=28187

Also, Discover does rolling rewards.  This quarter Target is their 5% reward.

Villanelle

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #92 on: October 02, 2017, 05:59:32 PM »
Someone mentioned it earlier, but have you looked at Costco, Sams, or BJs?  I am guessing you would save with just formula and diapers alone.  For the diapers and formula are you making sure you get the best deal each time?  What is the shelf life of the formula?  How much in advance can you buy?  There are websites that tell you each week the best diaper deals.

We used Costco formula with my first but my son can't tolerate it.  He's doing well on the Target brand sensitive and I stock up whenever they have a deal, but I could probably buy even more when there are good sales, since they aren't that frequent.  We only use disposable diapers at night, but I'll look into how to get the best deals.  One of my coworkers brings me diaper coupons, so that helps.

We have access to a Costco, but in the past it has sort of devolved into impulse shopping for convenience foods, so I didn't think it was actually saving money.  But it might be worth it for diapers if we can be disciplined.

If you shop a lot at Target, look at the various gift card resale sites and stock up on Target gift cards, especially when the sites have promotions for additional discounts.  It might not be much, but hacking 5% off of those items will add up, and it's not very time consuming to buy the cards, especially once you've done the research to see which site gives the best discount off face value for Target.  giftcardgranny.com compares all the gift card resale sites and will show you very quickly who has the cheapest Target cards.  It looks like right now, Card Cookie (which I have not used) has them at 8% off face value. 

As long as you don't use this to mentally allow yourself to spend more, it's an easy savings.  Do the same for any other place you shop often, or before any large purchase.  Many of the gift cards are electronic (though some are still actual cards that are mailed) so you can shop online, have something in your cart, and then go see if you can buy a gift card at a discount to pay for it.  Airlines, grocery stores, clothing stores, restaurants, Pet supply stores, etc.--this works for all of them!

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #93 on: October 03, 2017, 12:52:01 PM »
Wow @Villanelle, I had checked that in the past but the discounts are much larger now.  I got one at 9% off and used it toward a formula deal they have this week.  When I checked before there was nothing better than the Red Card 5%.

GardenBaker

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #94 on: October 03, 2017, 01:25:12 PM »
Similarly, you were surprised about the kid clothing expense.  What can you do to change that?  Can you find a consignment--or better yet, thrift-- store near you for those coats, and for future clothing needs?  Can you ask around at your co-op to see if anyone has size X or Y coats they are looking to sell?

Can you encourage the kids to make friends with kids who are well dressed and slightly larger than they are? (mostly kidding).

Seriously, find families that you can exchange kids' clothing with. Not everything has to be new.

We already do this, but haven't had any luck for coats.  We have a 3T coat for next year though for DD.  I'll ask around and check thrift stores.

Also, check popular online sites like PoshMark (they have an app you can download) or eBay for the kids clothes or even your own clothes. I have found so many clothes that are most often new with tags or only been worn once or twice for a fraction of the cost of what I would've paid from the dept stores. Also, alot of cities have local facebook buy, sell, trade groups. Look into those as well.

I think you're making great progress. I agree with the others in that your salary does have significant benefits with your retirement plan contributions and health insurance. Also, I'd never eat out again if it meant I could keep the the housekeeper coming; with 2 small littles and working full time, I think this is a good category to keep.

Also, this may be something that won't work for you, but have you considered cloth diapers for the weekend? Obviously, the day cares usually require disposable diapers, but if could use cloth diapers when the kids are at home with you it could save buying several packages a month.

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #95 on: October 03, 2017, 02:13:54 PM »
Also, this may be something that won't work for you, but have you considered cloth diapers for the weekend? Obviously, the day cares usually require disposable diapers, but if could use cloth diapers when the kids are at home with you it could save buying several packages a month.

We actually do cloth diaper the 6 month old and are lucky enough to have a daycare that accepts them.  We only use disposables for him when we travel or if he has a rash that needs Desitin.  The 2 year old is potty trained but gets a disposable overnight diaper because we never figured out a way to keep her from peeing out of cloth.  So we don't spend a ton on diapers but it's still worth trying to get the best deal if it's relatively easy.

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #96 on: October 04, 2017, 09:42:18 AM »
Used coat obtained for the toddler on eBay!  I checked the local Goodwill and their pickings were slim - our seems to have much more adult clothing than children's clothing?  eBay was more than Goodwill would have been, but less than buying new.  I even made an offer instead of doing the Buy it Now price.

I'm so excited now that we're starting to gain some momentum, but I have no one to share my excitement.  So I just keep posting in here.

Novik

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #97 on: October 04, 2017, 09:57:26 AM »
I'm so excited now that we're starting to gain some momentum, but I have no one to share my excitement.  So I just keep posting in here.

You have us!
Over-thinking, over-planning and over-committing, aka my 2017 goals: Procrastinating my way to FIRE
If you're a dual American/Canadian citizen living in Canada and investing in index funds outside an RRSP, please PM me!

MustachedImposter

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #98 on: October 08, 2017, 02:32:22 PM »
Achievement unlocked: proposed brunch at our house instead of brunch out, and made a frittata and coffee cake using all stuff we had in the house already.  Bonus was the toddlers had fun playing in the living room while the adults chatted, which was SO NICE.

I just spent a while catching up on paperwork and despite having a baby this year and the attendant health care costs, we will have money left in spouse's FSA to roll over to next year (his has a rollover provision, mine does not).  It looks like next year for the first time in several years our health care costs will be low enough that we don't have to max out two health FSAs, so that'll be a little bonus money per pay period.

People who keep their grocery bills low - how do you think about your monthly budget?  Do you split it into a weekly target amount?  I find our grocery costs tend to vary quite a bit by week and I'm not sure how to think about what I "should" be spending per week.  I was thinking about using a calculator to keep track of what I'm spending as I shop, to see how adding in "extras" affects the total.

meandmyfamily

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Re: Case Study: Hair on Fire Spending
« Reply #99 on: October 08, 2017, 03:23:35 PM »
You are doing great!  With our grocery budget we know our budgeted amount for the month $800 for a family of 6 (we often feed more).  We go to Costco twice a month around payday and then do the rest of our shopping at TJs, Frys and sometimes Sprouts.  I consistently spend $250 (that includes some household stuff that isn't in the $800) a month at Costco.  So I budget $400 each paycheck for only food and when we run out of money we are out of money and make due with what is in the house.  We can get as low as $600 a month and as high as $1000 a month if I don't watch it closely.  I stock up on things when they are a good deal.  I try to keep $20-$40 left towards the end of each pay period for random things we may need at the store for a recipe and/or for fresh produce.  I know other people that meal plan every day each paycheck and buy from that.  I personally don't like things that scheduled!