Author Topic: We got off-track. Help with our budget, please!  (Read 700 times)

DavidDoes

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We got off-track. Help with our budget, please!
« on: October 18, 2018, 11:18:30 AM »
Hi, folks. We're a small family 30 M, 29 F, 7 F. We used to be super frugal, debt-free, etc. Then we bought a house, and that house created a lot of expenses. We got out of that house, started new jobs, moved a few times. All in the midst of that, we got off track.

Now, we're in a pretty good place financially, but our bank accounts don't reflect our income as well as it could. We have made strides in the right direction, such as taking our daughter out of private school when we managed to get into a good public school. We've been cycling for three years, so we've avoided the $150/mo insurance, $100/mo gas, and $150/mo parking in the city. Now, we sometimes rent a ZipCar for weekend events or what-have-you.

I've attached screenshots of our current budget, and one of the budget I'm working on. Please see the attachments.

- Income

As you can see, we're only netting $5,500 right now between the two of us. That's pretty low for Seattle less than the median individual income. I'm working on this, and so is my partner. I'm in school for software development, and my partner is considering getting into real estate. Real estate may not provide much more in the way of income, but it will get her out of the service industry.

- Debt

We only have some small debts. The $50/mo goes to DFAS for a check they overpaid me. As you'll see in the newer budget, I'm going to pay that off this month.

The Prosper loan is for my evening schooling, and only has a balance of $8,000, at 4.5% (if I remember correctly). We're going to roll the DFAS payment and our monthly savings into that.

- Things to Cut Out

We're on Sprint, and yesterday I cancelled our $19/line device insurance. We're considering getting Ting (or a similar service) and getting cheaper devices. Only trouble with that is the up-front cost of getting different phones, because we would be giving our current ones back to Sprint. I'm looking into Palm's new tiny phone, some cheaper phones such as Moto e4, etc. The most important aspect for having a smartphone, for us, is recording transactions in YNAB when we make them. Thankfully, it looks like there's some great affordable options out there, especially used. We should be able to cut this expense from $195 (now $157) to $80 or less, plus the upfront cost of devices. Our biggest hangup is abandoning iOS. I've tried to do it twice in the past, and the devices were horrendously buggy even brand new. So there's that, and our strong dislike for Google spying on us.

I'm planning on getting rid of Netflix and Spotify.

Under Periodical Expenses, I'm not sure we could cut anything out. Harry's is a razor blade delivery subscription that is cheaper than anything else. Amazon constantly has the best deals. We use rewards from the CapitalOne card to pay the annual fee. Headspace is a meditation app that all three of us use daily. Zipcar annual fee is required to use Zipcar, and it's the lowest tier membership. Thrive Market is a wholesale club we use for groceries.

Speaking of groceries, we live near a Trader Joe's (where we do the bulk of our grocery shopping), QFC, Safeway, and a local co-op grocer. We never go to Safeway, and we get a couple of items from QFC (such as tortillas) because they're cheaper there. We don't go to the co-op grocer anymore. We used to a lot because my partner worked there, making their prices better than QFC and Safeway. We don't eat meals out. However, sometimes we run late, and have ordered dinner a couple times a month in the past year (average spending was $120/mo. over the last 12 months). Definitely room for improvement here.

The $50/mo for Dining/Specialty are for once-a-month ice cream trips and if we want beer, wine, coffee, what-have-you. I think this one could use a bit more scrutiny on our part.

Only I have life insurance right now, because my partner hasn't had much time lately to start hers. None of us have health or dental insurance.

Health & Beauty is one that I don't have much control over. My partner has skin issues, so this expense is made up of skin products and vitamins for her and our daughter.

The Bicycles expense is savings for parts and repairs. The brake pads for these bikes are expensive! And proprietary.

The Kiddo Account is for our daughter's allowance that she earns for cleaning up after herself, reading daily, helping out, etc. She has a spreadsheet that we go over every couple of weeks to see how she's doing. It earns 12% APY. She has to plan out purchases and make conscious decisions about whether or not that purchase is worth it.

Transportation is for taking the bus on the weekends to take our daughter to ballet because it's not a very safe bike ride. There's also room in there for taking ReachNow/Zipcar/Car2Go if something happens (our elevator goes down sometimes, or I can't take my bike to work because I have to do something with the company car and then get a car service home to be home in time to get the kiddo from the bus stop, etc.). We do need to try to be more frugal in this area. The past couple of months have been doozies because I couldn't carpool with anyone to my friend's weekend getaway before getting married, and we had his wedding last weekend, etc.

Holidays, Summer Camp, and Extracurriculars are variable categories, so we assigned the average cost divided by 12 to save for those expenses. We're now starting to save our credit card rewards for holidays, so hopefully that budget goes down.

- Fixed Expenses

We live in an income-based unit, referred to in Seattle as MFTE. The whole property is a "normal" property, but with a few units set aside for the MFTE program. We've lived here for 2.5 years. Our rent goes up about 6% per year. We might look into moving closer to our daughter's school when I'm done with my evening schooling.

Internet is fixed, and is necessary for video chatting with my school in the evenings.

---

Behaviorally, we need to make some wiser decisions. We use YNAB to track everything, but we haven't been adhering to YNAB's rules like we used to. We're also using credit cards for everything, and paying the balance. We haven't paid credit card interest since before we were married over eight years ago.

We have saved $5,000 this year and that's sitting in a savings account earning 2.02% APY.

I think that covers everything. I'd love some advice, slaps in the face, or whatever you've got!
« Last Edit: October 18, 2018, 01:33:41 PM by DavidDoes »

lhamo

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Re: We got off-track. Help with our budget, please!
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2018, 01:04:22 PM »
Hey -- I remember you guys! 

Yeah, the phones are really the stand out thing you can cut.  I'm on Google Fi with my DS, and my DH and DD are on the senior plan at Tmobile.  Works out to about $30/month/person -- would be cheaper if DS and I were better about not using data, but it is worth what we spend on it (typically use about 1gig/month between us, so an extra $10 over base charges).  We buy our phones cash.

Groceries are harder when you don't have a car.  TJ's is probably not the cheapest route, though.  Do you live close to the ID?  You can definitely get better prices on meat/veg there than standard markets will have, even if you have to pay for a Lyft or Uber car home.  I personally do most of my shopping at Fred Meyer, but guessing you don't have one close.  Safeway loss leaders are worth keeping an eye out for, though they do require you have the card.  Do take advantage of the card/coupons at QFC, too -- their prices are a lot higher than FM typically, but sometimes they offer similar discounts.

How much longer are you in school?  I think as long as you tighten things up a little bit now you will be in great shape once you can change fields/get your income up.  Will it be DW's turn to retrain next?

DavidDoes

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Re: We got off-track. Help with our budget, please!
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2018, 01:29:27 PM »
Hi! Yes, I remember being excited there was someone else on here from Seattle. :)

I was thinking last night that we should ask my partner's sisters if they want to get on a family plan. The only issue there is that we'd be tied to a major carrier because they're ones that finance phones. I'd rather get an "independent" carrier and buy the phones. But T-Mobile seems decently priced.

We actually do live pretty close to the ID. We live in the Pike-Pine neighborhood (yuck!), so it's just down Broadway to get to the ID. Are you thinking a particular store, or all of them, or what?

I'm only in school for a few more months! :) Yes, she will take a couple of courses at North Seattle College, or she has the option of taking more courses with more training. The longer course is only $2,000, if I'm remembering what she told me correctly.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2018, 01:31:12 PM by DavidDoes »

lhamo

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Re: We got off-track. Help with our budget, please!
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2018, 01:49:32 PM »
MetroPCS is now owned by T-Mobile -- looks like you can get 2 lines with unlimited data + amazon prime for $90/month.  Cheaper if you use less data/don't want to bundle the Prime (you are doing student rate for Prime, right?  Just need an .edu email).  If MetroPCS is like T-mobile's other plans, the taxes and fees are included in that rate.

https://www.metropcs.com/shop/plans?icid=home%7Crateplans%7Cpropsect

I haven't shopped in the ID for years -- we're up north so I go to the asian market on Aurora now -- but when we lived on Beacon Hill we mostly shopped at the market on the SW corner of 23rd and Jackson.  The one on the North side of Jackson down the hill a bit is bigger and good, too (Viet Wah I think?)