Author Topic: Where should I start?  (Read 2477 times)

Sugaree

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Where should I start?
« on: September 24, 2018, 08:56:32 AM »
I've lurked around for awhile, but have recently decided to start getting serious about this.  I'm way behind the curve

Me: 36
DH: 43
One kidlet who's 5

Income:
Me: $71k/year
DH: $26k/year*
Kidlet:  $0....the lazy bum.

Debt:
$15k @ 1.25% - recent semi-involuntary house renovation
$1995 @ 0% (for 18 months) - replacing the engine of DH's Jeep.  It will be paid off before the promotional period ends
$27k @ 3-ish% - DH's student loans

No mortgage, no car loans, no carried CC debt other than the car engine

Savings:
Emergency fund:  $40.  It's usually in the $1-3k range, but we were hit by a tornado this spring and my husband's car blew up all in the same month.  We still haven't quite recovered from it. 
Kidlet's college fund:  $11.5k in a Roth IRA.  I did consider a 529.  However, I live in a state that only recognizes it's own plan for tax breaks, but also has a history of severely mismanaging it's college plan. 
TSP:  $23k.  I currently contribute 9% to the Roth TSP and get a 5% match into the traditional TSP.  I'm considering switching back to traditional contributions and also raising the percentage to 11% or so.

Retirement plan:
The plan is to retire somewhere warm and cheap.  Probably Central America depending on what their political situations look like then.  I don't plan on buying property as I don't want to get caught up in political strife (look what's been going on in Nicaragua).  I also don't want my kid to have to deal with foreign property after I'm gone.  I'll have a pension of about $24k/year in today's dollars assuming that I make it to minimum retirement age (57) at the same job.  If I go early, then it will be reduced by about $900 a year for each year before I turn 57.


So, obviously the first things I need to be concentrating on are rebuilding my emergency funds and paying off the motor on DH's vehicle.  Then I'm thinking that I should look at my TSP and convert back to traditional vs. Roth (I asked a little about this in the taxes forum).  I've run the numbers and unless I end up with a ton of capital gains during a given year I don't see how my AGI would be any higher than it is now.  I also want to take a look at my tax withholding next year too.  While I like getting a decent tax refund back, if I could reduce the amount I get back and save more during the course of the year, I think I'd be better off in the long run.

As far as cutting expenses go, I'm already pretty frugal.  We didn't have cable TV hooked back up at the house when we moved back in and moved to streaming only.  We bought the modem/router for our Internet so we wouldn't have to lease one from the cable company.  We have a programmable thermostat that turns the air down when no one's home (okay, it's part of my planned smart home, which isn't as frugal as it could be).  We spend $400/month on food including paper products, cleaning products, and pet food.  There are things we could still cut down on.  I have a couple of expensive hobbies and get my hair done every six weeks.  We also have several subscription services that could go (Prime is a big one, but we do watch a good bit of their TV programming).  We have a gym membership at a community recreation/aquatics center to the tune of $45/month that I guess could go once the kid learns how to swim better.  Speaking of the kid, I'd love to move him from the after-school program he's at to a cheaper one, but DH is adamant about the one he's at.  He does pay the difference though.

*DH is decidedly not mustachian.  He's awful with money.  But he does a good job at insourcing things around the house, so I guess I'll keep him around.  We have separate finances and since a particularly grievous incident several years ago, his access has been limited so that he can't do too much damage to the family finances.  As such, his income goes to pay for things like my life insurance and the travel fund.  I also try to keep a slush fund so that when he does something stupid and runs out of money before payday that there's a little left for him.   

nurseart

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2018, 09:31:54 AM »
Thanks for posting and nice job limiting mortgage, car loan and carried CC debt!

Without seeing a clear budget or current retirement savings it is hard to give much advice other than to be really blunt you are not set up for retirement at all with $40 in your emergency fund.

Talking about finances with a partner is tough, real tough. Arguments about money is also the leading cause of divorce. Do what works for you but I'd really prioritize getting on the same page hard as that might be. There was a great forum topic on talking with spouses about finances. I found the MMM post but not the forum thread http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/22/selling-the-dream-how-to-make-your-spouse-love-frugality/

I've personally found that using personal capital (all accounts linked!) has really helped had conversations with the husband about money. The tools are very graphical and data driven which helps take any of the emotion or blame out of the conversation.

best of luck to you!

MDM

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2018, 03:55:58 PM »
Investment Order is a decent generic answer to the thread title.

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2018, 09:32:31 PM »
I'll second the other poster.  Get that emergency fund up - to 6 months of expenses, or maybe more in your case, due to the DH issues/slush fund. 

That's #1.  Get at least 3 months saved up before you pay down anything else - you need a safety net. 

#2 is paying the $1,995, because it has to go somewhere, and you don't want it to end up on a high-rate card. 

Simultaneously, cut the extra spending.  No fancy hobbies - find hobbies that pay for themselves (at least for the next year or two).  No subscriptions.  (We don't have any, for what it's worth, not even Netflix.)  Gym is tougher, because you want to stay healthy, so just consider cutting it if you don't make sufficient use of it.  As for hair, we have that issue, too, and here's what we do: we set a budget and stick with it.  It might be every six weeks or it might happen less often if DW wants something fancier, but it only happens when the money is there.  You're in big debt, so I would hold off on anything you can and insource it at least until you're back to having a solid emergency fund and get rid of the credit-card debt.

Fun fact about that CC debt: they can automatically accelerate all your payments plus add interest and penalties if you ever miss a payment (of if they "lose" your payment somehow)...had that happen to a friend once, years ago.  It got ugly quickly.  That's a big part of how they make their money, which is why I avoid ever doing that and rely upon emergency funds.

zeli2033

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2018, 06:31:20 PM »
Thanks for posting and nice job limiting mortgage, car loan and carried CC debt!

Without seeing a clear budget or current retirement savings it is hard to give much advice other than to be really blunt you are not set up for retirement at all with $40 in your emergency fund.

Talking about finances with a partner is tough, real tough. Arguments about money is also the leading cause of divorce. Do what works for you but I'd really prioritize getting on the same page hard as that might be. There was a great forum topic on talking with spouses about finances. I found the MMM post but not the forum thread http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/22/selling-the-dream-how-to-make-your-spouse-love-frugality/

I've personally found that using personal capital (all accounts linked!) has really helped had conversations with the husband about money. The tools are very graphical and data driven which helps take any of the emotion or blame out of the conversation.

best of luck to you!

Here's a related forum thread that may have additional insight regarding "converting your SO to MMM", if that's something you want to do: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/how-to-convert-your-so-to-mmm-in-50-awesome-steps/

As far as everything else, I'd really second what was already posted. The Investment Order sticky MDM posted is probably a good place to begin, followed by leveraging what FWP and nurseart shared around building an e-fund that's a bit more sizable (which is the first step in the Investment Order stick).

If you decide you want to get a little more cutthroat about expenses, you can always post your specific numbers and people will be happy to provide their input on recommendations for freeing up additional cash. Either way, welcome to the forums and good luck!

Watchmaker

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2018, 07:58:30 AM »
Standard advice for this forum when you are carrying consumer debt: cut all possible expenses and get out of debt asap. The only thing that can take reasonable priority over debt repayment is rebuilding an emergency fund. Until then, no hair cuts, no expensive hobbies, no eating out.

The good news is you've only got 17k in consumer debt, so you should be able to pay it off in a matter of months.

It's not clear from your post whether you have the issues surrounding your SOs spending dealt with. Is having separate finances working? Is he paying all his own costs?

I'd need to see a budget to say anything more.
 

Sugaree

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2018, 03:07:49 PM »
Here's my monthly budget.  I'm extrapolating some of these numbers because I get paid bi-weekly so it works out to be like 2 1/6 paychecks a month and a lot of things are budgeted in weeks rather than months.  I promise I did have my shit together up until the end of March and this reflects how things were.  We've just failed to make all the appropriate changes.

Income:  $3100 (this is net after taxes, health insurance, and TSP contributions are taken out)

Expenses:
Gym/Community Center - $45
Short-term savings - $150
Car Savings - $200 (this is not a car payment, it is a short-term savings account to pay for next car and/or car repairs)
Water/Garbage/Gas - $90 (this is usually higher in the winter when we use more gas heat but the decreased electricity bills tend to average it out)
Property tax - $150
Home insurance - $100
Cell phones - $40
Internet - $85
Electricity - $250

Gas - $260
Food - $390
Roth IRA/Kid's college fund - $487
Hair - $60
Kid allowance - $43
Hobbies - $86
Loan Repayment - $296

Car insurance/tags - $99
After school care - $42
xmas/birthdays/other gift-giving occasions - $125
Subscriptions (Netflix/Sirius/etc) - $51

Total: $3049 leaving about $51 unbudgeted during a given month. 

The obvious things that stick out to be cut are the gym and the subscriptions, which are both things that are paid for annually and saved for monthly.  And the hair thing.  I don't think I'm capable of doing it myself, but I do think I could get away with stretching it out to 8 or 10 weeks between appointments rather than every 6 weeks.  We could cut the gift giving by several hundred dollars a year and still be okay.  Current short-term savings and should probably be redirected to emergency fund savings and paying things off. 

Electricity is something that I would like to actively work on controlling.  I had a smart thermostat installed as part of some work I had to have done on the HVAC unit, so I hope that will help cut down some costs.  There are also a couple of freezers at the house.  I use the smaller one quite often to hold freezer meals but the big one is just got a bunch of beekeeping equipment.  Since I'm no longer allowed to have bees in my yard I don't know what I'm going to do with it yet.  But that also cuts out one of my expensive hobbies, so...


My husband's spending really isn't under control.  I've pretty much cut off all his access to family money, so he can't do major damage, but he'll still go spend a bunch of money on stupid shit like toys for the kid and junk food and then not have gas money on the Monday after payday.  I've been trying to make him figure it out himself, but I still have to bail him out occasionally. 

Feivel2000

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2018, 02:52:13 AM »
I am in Germany and only have a small flat, but your electricity bill is outrageous. Before you start cutting your 10$/month prime membership, you should focus on the big things.
Car insurance also seems high to me.

About the things with your SO: Make him pay half of your the bills you have together. The thing with someone who splurges is: It doesn't matter if he has 200$ more or less per month, in the end, it's all gone. So let him pay his fair share and then he can do what he wants.

Sugaree

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2018, 05:54:41 AM »
The car insurance is $360 every six months for one car and $120 every six months for the other with tags running about $200 a year for both ($130 & $70). 

The electricity bill is a tough one.  It's not always this high, but I budget that much and carry forward any amount left over to future months to account for months like this one where I'm likely to hit $300.  To give some persepective, I'm in the southern US and today is October 3rd and the high is expected to be 86 F (30 C).  I keep the thermostat at 80 (27C) when no one's home and 76-77 (25C) in the evening.

One thing I should clarify is that my DH does pay bills.  He doesn't pay exactly half because I do make more than twice what he does.  But the bills he pays are things like insurance that isn't necessarily paid monthly.




Freedomin5

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2018, 05:59:58 AM »
Given that DH makes a lot less than you do, I donít know if you want to make him pay half of the expenses. But I do agree that he should pay at least a portion of the expenses, particularly:

- The slush fund that you use to bail him out periodically (make him contribute a set amount each month to this slush fund)
- His car loan and all expenses related to his car
- His cellphone
- His student loans payment
- A portion of food related expenses

I guess getting him to contribute housing expenses may be optional since you mentioned that he is handy around the house and works hard on its upkeep.

As youíve mentioned, you could also cut the gifts, gym, subscriptions and hobbies and put those amounts towards long term savings, following the Investment Order link that was posted above. Once your loans have been repaid, you can also put that money towards investments.


onlykelsey

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2018, 06:13:26 AM »
I am going to refrain from commenting too much on the relationship dynamic, but having a husband you can't trust with access to your checkbook seems like it could wipe out any retirement (or other) plans you have.

Relatedly, I don't know your tax or health insurance situation, but $3100 net seems low if you're netting nearly 100K together.  Is the $3100 just your income?  If so, where is his?

Currently it seems like you have 23K in retirement savings for two people, assuming you don't retire before you child leaves home and you don't have any more children.  Back of the envelope, you're putting in 14% of 71K in per year (9.9K).  If you keep doing that and pay off all your debts, etc, you'll be at NW of maybe 350K in 20 years.  Is that plus your 24K pension enough? 

Sugaree

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2018, 06:37:08 AM »
Yes, $3100 is just mine.  He pays about ~$700 a month toward the things that he pays (plus a slush fund for when he runs out of money.  It's currently at -$167)   The rest goes to his gas, junk food, and whatever else it is he wastes his money on. 

zeli2033

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2018, 08:34:01 AM »
The electricity bill is a tough one.  It's not always this high, but I budget that much and carry forward any amount left over to future months to account for months like this one where I'm likely to hit $300.  To give some persepective, I'm in the southern US and today is October 3rd and the high is expected to be 86 F (30 C).  I keep the thermostat at 80 (27C) when no one's home and 76-77 (25C) in the evening.

Holy smokes, this could definitely explain the electricity bill! I donít live in the South so Iím sure my tolerance for warmer or cooler temperatures is higher but it definitely seems like you could cut your bill down by turning the thermostat down, especially when no one is home.

Based on the context you provided, Iím assuming youíre trying to avoid the heat with keeping the numbers what they are. Are you able to rely less on AC and more on using fans, windows and cross breezes? Also blackout curtains or anything to cover windows when it is hot during the day. Thatís our go to in the summer when it is regularly above the temperatures listed and we donít have AC.

If on the off chance youíre saying itís cold youíre trying to avoid (I assume itís not but I have friends in the South who might balk at those temperatures) then it seems like you could absolutely turn the heat further down when youíre not home and turn it back up when you are home. As a point of reference, when itís cold out we turn our heat as low as 64 when we are gone and turn it up to 68-70 when we are home.  And my DH who wants it to be a balmy 76 is perfectly fine wearing a comfy hoodie inside since I canít imagine keeping the heat on that high!

Anywho, just my $0.02 :)

Watchmaker

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2018, 08:38:21 AM »
Sounds like you know where the potential savings are.

Cut the hair cuts in half. -$30
Subscriptions: Netflix, Sirius and what else? Is the Netflix the basic plan, standard or premium?  Cut the total expense in half -$25.
Gym membership. -$45.
Electricity, reduce by 20%. -$50
Reduce gift giving. -$50

There's a fairly painless $200 improvement in your budget, giving you much more breathing room between that and your income.

Does you local library have Kill-A-Watt meters to lend (mine does)? These let you see how much power everything you have plugged in is using. One thing to remember is that everything that is consuming power in your house is also generating heat, so you spend even more power running the AC.

But-- nothing you do with your budget is going to fix the issues you have with your SO's spending, and from what you are saying that sounds like something that needs to be addressed.



 

Sugaree

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2018, 08:46:48 AM »
We do have blackout curtains in most rooms.  We lost the great big curtain on the south-facing picture window, but we've been trying to keep the door closed there to at least keep that room's heat contained since there aren't any temp sensors in there.  80 is the highest that my vet recommends letting it get during the day for my elderly, long-haired doggy.  I just checked the thermostat and see that my husband turned it down to 74 before he left this morning.  At least I can control it from here and fix it.  As far as cold goes, it goes to 64 when we're not home and 68 when we're home.  It'll drop down to 66 at night when we're in bed.  I'm still playing with those settings to see what's comfortable and what's cost effective. 

Sugaree

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2018, 08:48:56 AM »

But-- nothing you do with your budget is going to fix the issues you have with your SO's spending, and from what you are saying that sounds like something that needs to be addressed.


I absolutely agree.  He's killing the budget and teaching our son really bad habits (no, you don't have to have a toy every time we go to the store).  I'm pretty sure he's also been raiding the kid's piggy bank so teaching the kiddo to save his money doesn't work either (kiddo now has an actual bank account with just mine and his name on it).

frugalfoothills

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2018, 11:47:18 AM »

But-- nothing you do with your budget is going to fix the issues you have with your SO's spending, and from what you are saying that sounds like something that needs to be addressed.


I absolutely agree.  He's killing the budget and teaching our son really bad habits (no, you don't have to have a toy every time we go to the store).  I'm pretty sure he's also been raiding the kid's piggy bank so teaching the kiddo to save his money doesn't work either (kiddo now has an actual bank account with just mine and his name on it).

Raiding his kid's piggy bank!?!?! Ooooh man, I would have something to say (or several things to say) about that, absolutely. That is all kinds of wrong.

Sugaree

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2018, 02:09:20 PM »

But-- nothing you do with your budget is going to fix the issues you have with your SO's spending, and from what you are saying that sounds like something that needs to be addressed.


I absolutely agree.  He's killing the budget and teaching our son really bad habits (no, you don't have to have a toy every time we go to the store).  I'm pretty sure he's also been raiding the kid's piggy bank so teaching the kiddo to save his money doesn't work either (kiddo now has an actual bank account with just mine and his name on it).

Raiding his kid's piggy bank!?!?! Ooooh man, I would have something to say (or several things to say) about that, absolutely. That is all kinds of wrong.

You get it.  I was shocked how many people didn't think it was that big of a deal.

Kayad

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #18 on: Today at 02:58:40 AM »
Nice work having paid off home!  You might want to shop your home insurance.  $1200 seems like a lot (for comparison, I pay ~450 on residence worth in the mid 200s).

Sugaree

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #19 on: Today at 06:51:56 AM »
Nice work having paid off home!  You might want to shop your home insurance.  $1200 seems like a lot (for comparison, I pay ~450 on residence worth in the mid 200s).

Don't get too excited about the paid off home.  I was just lucky.  It's a family home that mom inherited from my grandparents and will come to me on her death.  Due to the way it's titled, I'm having to pay both "homeowners" (actually landlord) and renter's insurance because I'm not the current legal owner.  Though, I did look back at the bills and I think I'm paying a little closer to $85/month for both policies.  I need to adjust my monthly transfers to the insurance sinking fund. 

Laura33

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #20 on: Today at 08:09:28 AM »
So, first, be a little patient here.  You had two big money sinks -- a tornado and the Jeep engine.  Even one of those would wipe out many people, and you had both!  Add in a spendypants husband who doesn't make a whole lot, and it's no wonder you're so stressed.

Second, good for you for having an emergency fund that covered a lot of those emergency expenses.  You are absolutely right that you need to build it back up.  But recognize that it did what it was supposed to do:  it helped you weather a double emergency.  I think we all would prefer when we never have to touch the EF, but that is what it's there for, so don't feel bad about spending it.

I am starting with this because I don't see you living a consumerist lifestyle.  You are not one of the people who got into CC debt because they bought too much stuff.  You are contributing to your retirement accounts, netting $3100/mo, and then saving almost $850 of that.  AND you are on track to get that CC debt paid off before the 0% interest expires.  I think you are doing a very good job managing a tough situation.

This is a really long preface because I am about to give you very different advice than I give most people who have debt, and that is specifically because your debt does not stem from a habit of overspending or living beyond your means.  ITA that your number one priority is to get that EF back up ASAP, because as you have learned, the fact that you have just had one emergency doesn't mean another won't strike.  So I suggest temporarily stopping the college funding, because that is the biggest accessible pot of income you can divert, and since it is a Roth, you will not lose any tax deductions. 

Then over the weekend do the tax numbers and look at your withholding, and change it as necessary on Monday -- you need that money now, not in April or May.  Also run an estimate of your taxes to evaluate whether you should be continuing the Roth TSP or switch to traditional; at your income levels, the standard deduction might get you down to the 12% bracket, which is good, but if you are paying any tax at 22%, you might want to switch at least some of your money to a traditional TSP to get below that level.  Basically, play with the tax numbers a bit to see how different choices affect your current budget.

And finally, yes, you should look at the extras in your budget -- subscriptions, hobbies, hair, etc.  But I am not going to suggest you cut everything, because those aren't what got you into trouble and aren't excessive in light of your budget.  In particular, look at ALLLLLL those different subscriptions, because those are basically just different versions of lazy-ass consumption:  they are all different ways that you can sit on your ass and have media shoved at you.  Pick one or two to cut, not just to save the money, but to figure out a healthier lifestyle where entertainment doesn't depend on ass-sitting -- maybe use the extra time to make better use of that gym membership.  ;-)  And yes, stretch the hair stuff a bit, and see if you can cut the hobby spending a bit until the EF is back up. 

But, again, don't go into crisis mode and try to cut all of the "extras" out of your life, because that is going to backfire.  My own DH is also a spendypants, and I can tell you from personal experience that when I cut my own little luxuries while he is still spending freely, that breeds massive resentment -- and that is tremendously unhealthy for a marriage.  When I am at my desk eating leftovers for lunch for the 14th day in a row, and I really want that chicken mango salad from the deli, but I tell myself I can't have it because I am trying to cut our food spending, and yet I know DH is going out for lunch every. single. fucking. day. with his buddies, well, let's just say that's not a healthy mindset for me OR him.  Obviously, you do that if you need to, if you are in a real crisis.  But, again, that's not you -- you are just in recovery mode, so you need to cut, but it doesn't need to be to the bone.  So figure out which of those little luxuries you have actually bring you happiness, stress relief, room to breathe, etc., and keep those; then cut the ones that you're not getting real value out of.

Watchmaker

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #21 on: Today at 09:08:36 AM »
Laura33's advice here is excellent.

Sugaree

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #22 on: Today at 09:35:34 AM »
I just took a look at my retirement and switched from Roth to Traditional for the TSP contributions.  I upped the contribution by a percent, so I save a little more each paycheck and get a little more in my check each paycheck.  I see that as a win-win  I've also been working some OT and my e-fund will be up to ~$500 next payday, so that will help too.  I also have a bonus coming in next month that will get an "oh shit" e-fund established.  Plus there are a few random funds laying around that I could juggle if needed before then (a vacation account, a teeny bit in a paypal account from a side gig, a sinking fund for things like insurance that's paid yearly or quarterly, the college fund that was slated to be put in the IRA next year, a CD that will come due in Feb. etc.  about ~$4k in all).  The monthly loan payment on the house is backed by cash in a savings account so if things really went off the rails then as long as I could come up with about $15 a month, I could keep that going as long as I needed to (every time I make a payment, it frees up that amount in the savings account that I could use to make most of the next payment which would free up money in the account to make the next payment and so forth....yes, it's mathematically dumb, but the interest rate is effectively 1% and it preserved family harmony).  All that is to say that I do have cash available, it's just not labeled as an "emergency fund."  It's all earning (slightly) more than the 0% I'm paying on the Jeep engine, so I'm going to let it ride for the time being.  I think my biggest problem is that I see things in strict terms of "this money is for this and this is for that and they should never be used for something else.  I don't like spending the wrong color of money, if you know what I mean.  I do what I have to do, but I don't like it. 
« Last Edit: Today at 09:45:48 AM by Sugaree »

Watchmaker

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #23 on: Today at 10:46:12 AM »
I understand the idea of having money in different places for different purposes, but money is fungible and, ultimately, I think viewing it that way makes it easier to set up a rational system.

An emergency fund simply means you have a supply of money which is liquid (easy to access) and low risk (guaranteed to be there when you need it). If you have money that meets that criteria, then you should consider that part of your emergency fund, in my opinion.


kms

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Re: Where should I start?
« Reply #24 on: Today at 11:05:56 AM »
Did I understand this correctly? Your husband is blowing all of his money on stupid shit and not contributing to your household income. Meanwhile, you are paying back his Jeep's blown engine with your money? First of all, what does he need a Jeep for? I, too, live in the South and there is no need for a four-wheel drive unless you go hunting out on a farm or in the hill country regularly.

The biggest problem I see hands down is your husband. Unless you get him onboard and cut his spending I don't see how you will be able to improve upon your situation. The more you save the more he might feel entitled to spend. Raiding your son's piggy bank is just a start, next thing you know he'll be dipping into the college fund, his retirement fund (does he even have one?), etc.

Electricity is something you might be able to save some money on, although I admit it is very hard in the South given the temperatures. $300 per month in summer sounds somewhat reasonable, unless of course your husband keeps messing with the thermostat and ruining your attempts to save money. How big is your house? How old is your HVAC? What kind of smart thermostat did you purchase? Does your city have a cash back program for installing smart thermostats (Austin, for example, does, and you can get up to $110 back). Most smart thermostats should allow you to lock the settings so that nobody will be able to mess with them, or you can set up a IFTTT alert that notifies you as soon as somebody touches it. Two degrees more or less can make a significant difference. Also, does your thermostat have an auto-away mode or do you have to set it manually every time you leave the house?