Category Archives: Budgeting
It used to be (back in the dark ages of the 1950’s) that kids learned about relationships from their parents and maybe from the parents of their best friends. In my house, we learned that Dad was the boss and everything, and I mean everything, revolved around his schedule, his likes and dislikes, his sense of right and wrong and his money.
That’s right. My parents were NOT equal and the money was all Dad’s.
Our family was the definition of old-fashioned. Dad went to work every day; Mom stayed home with the five kids, the laundry, the housework, the cooking, mending and shopping. The biggest argument my parents had was held at the end of each month when it was time for Dad to look at the “books.”
Arguing wasn’t really what happened during those sessions as the only voice we ever heard was Dad’s. Inquisition is a more apt description. It was not a pretty sight and even if you couldn’t see it, you could not miss the frequent and loud outbursts that emanated from Dad’s mouth.
My Mom was in a losing position before one word was spoken. The reason was simple math.
At the height of his career, Dad earned $24,000 a year before taxes. Out of that money, my mom had to feed, clothe and keep in “necessities” five children, a foster teenager, her mother-in-law, herself and Dad, keep the house and car running and tithe to the church. That was no mean feat and often there was little or nothing left at the end of the month.
Dad’s question was always the same — where did my money go? The real answer – spent on the family – was never good enough. And the war raged on around us. Little did we know how very much we were learning about how money shaped relationships.
My brother Mike controlled the cash in his house, just like Dad. His wife and children answered to him for every nickel and dime that went missing. Bob refused to talk about money or manage it. He put his paychecks in a drawer and only deposited them when his wife was telling him, at the top of her lungs, that their checking account was running on fumes.
I made money, lots of it. And I spent it, paid for my college education, raised a daughter on it and managed it for more than 20 years. I felt total control when it came to money…until I married Pat. Only then did I begin to understand how my parent’s monthly battle over money would affect my relationship to my husband. And what I discovered was that ugly behavior can be learned.
More on the battle over money in the next post.
Are you looking for a new dryer? Clothes dryer that is! I got mine about three months ago, all the way from Ireland. It is stainless steel with brass accents. It dries fast but doesn’t shrink the clothes or wear out the fibers. There is just one hitch. My new dryer is a Breezecatcher – a 4 arm outdoor clothesline!
Described by happy customers (including me) as .. “superior product”…..”a work of art”…. “an excellent design” …..”a thing of beauty”….”superb workmanship”….”better than off the shelf products,” each Breezecatcher is hand-crafted, durable and designed to last.
And the Breezecatcher saves money by saving energy! My electric bill dropped by $73 the first month I used the Breezecatcher instead of the clothes dryer. Every month this summer I have saved between $70 and $80 just by hanging out our clothes. And I only do 2 loads a week! Imagine how much a family of 4 could save.
And there is the added advantage of reducing my carbon footprint! When my small effort is added to the savings of all the people in the United States who used Breezecatchers in 2008, we saved 2,062,500 KWHs or the equivalent of 885 tons of CO2.
And there’s one more advantage to hanging clothes out to dry. It’s a little old-fashioned but standing outside listening to birds, watching my Westies play, hearing the chickens cluck, brings me real and treasured moments of peace. There is no noise other than those natural sounds, no media, no, activity – just the birds, the breeze and me.
So consider saving money and saving your sanity by buying a new dryer for your back yard.
Who thinks about how deeply embedded you are in one bank until you have to change to a new one?
After 28 years at Wilmington Trust, we are moving on. Why? M&T Bank bought this fine Delaware institution and the changes are rolling in. Yesterday I received a book (really, a book) on what is going to happen when they make the merger final. Thousands of words and dollars were spent on this glossy page turner, but it was still confusing and complicated. What was clear was this unwanted change was bringing with it new fees and less confidence, much less confidence.
So, we are forced to say good-by to a good friend and the great team in Greenville and take our chances with another locally owned financial institution, Sun East Federal Credit Union.
Started more than 60 years ago by Sun Oil employees, this credit union has grown conservatively and prospered. Are there as many branches as M&T? No. Are there as many fees? Definitely no. Is it locally owned and personal? Yes. In fact, when we open our new accounts, we will be share holders, members of the credit union, not a number on a list of customers M&T is sucking into its very large maw.
But, back to the original thought, changing banks is not all that easy and our finances are pretty clear-cut. We only have one small home equity loan. We will have to get a coupon book, set up a new loan at Sun East and move that over. We have direct deposits from 3 places — all of them have to move.
And tracking down auto payments to long-standing vendors means combing through old statements to make sure no one gets missed. Bill paying was easy this way but now we have everything from ADT to EZ Pass accounts to move from one financial institution to another. Debit cards close then open with new numbers. Checks get shredded and new ones issued.
We will probably miss some bits and bobs that needed to be closed, transferred or updated. We will surely get calls from some companies authorized to debit but unable to do so because the money is gone and so are we. But making this change is worth it. I don’t know Sun East at all but there is more trust level with this group than there is with M&T — the out-of-town bank that is taking over our familiar financial partner. It is definitely time to move on!
My granddaughter spent last week at our house. She is 12 years old, small and beautiful…and she consumes toilet paper like a platoon of soldiers. Suddenly, I understood why my Dad was so crazed about how fast we girls ran through his stockpile.
Dad had three daughters. Each daughter had a daughter. When we came to visit, Dad hid his toilet paper in the bottom of the clothes hamper in his bedroom. Why? Between the 6 of us, we could go through two rolls of toilet paper a day.
Dad was a depression baby. And toilet paper was a luxury even though, back then, a roll might cost him a quarter. If Dad were alive, today, he would probably stock the bathroom with leaves and lock up his toilet paper.
Buy toilet paper at the store and 8 rolls will cost you about $8.00. Even if you buy it in bulk – 30 jumbo rolls will still cost you $26.00 – 100 times what it cost Dad. And, have you noticed that the rolls are getting noticeably smaller but the price isn’t?
Bottom line, toilet paper is a pretty practical consideration! So, how do you wrangle toilet paper to the ground, cut down on use and save some cash? The old-fashioned way; you start counting sheets.
I know, sounds ridiculous but once I started counting, I realized that I was hauling on the toilet paper roll like I was pulling the cord to start my lawn mower. Ten, twelve, sometimes fifteen sheets at a time rolled off. I was ripping through rolls at the rate of three a week!
By counting sheets and limiting the number I use, I can make one roll of Scott toilet paper last about 8 days – saving trees, saving money and yes, I think bringing a huge smile to my Dad’s face.
And if you want to save even more money, I have two suggestions. Check out Amazon’s Subscribe and Save – I love it. You get 15% off the regular price and free home delivery. Not ready for that, Google “coupons” for your favorite paper products company and start saving money and trees.
If we were black or all over the age of 60, we could claim discrimination and body slam the elected — that’s right elected – members of the Oxford School District with a law suit that would stop the redistricting scheme in a heartbeat.
But we’re not all black, not all over 60 We are simply more than 2,500 taxpayers who get hit with a school tax bill paying in the mid to high $6,000 range every year. And we are about to lose ANY representation on the school board.
This is America, you say, Taxation without representation is why we fought the Revolutionary War, you add. This cannot be happening in this sleepy, ruburb community.
Oxford School Board Member Joe Scheese presented the resolution saying the current division of the district into 3 regions was, “…very skewed and out of balance.”
Scheese wants board members to be elected at large – all 9 of them. And taxpayers in the respective districts would NOT be able to vote for specific representatives who live in their township, know their issues and can represent the people and problems specific to Upper Oxford, effectively.
If Scheese feels that we don’t deserve representation, then perhaps he, and the School Board, can do without the tax dollars of the 2,484 people they propose to disenfranchise. Conservatively speaking, that’s only $1,242,000.
Cut us out of the process if you must but give us back our hard-earned money if you do. No one should have to pay for being railroaded by an elected official, no one.
Changing the world, that’s what I thought I would do when I was young. It was the 60’s after all. We, the young people of the United States, broke the back of the Vietnam War and brought our brothers and fathers home.
We looked at a world of inequality — a country where people of color had to use separate facilities and had no opportunity and a country where a woman couldn’t get a credit card, a car or even an apartment in her own name without a co-signer and decided to fight. We marched on Washington and won equal rights for all, regardless of race, religion or sex.
We really thought that we could make a difference. Then we got married, had babies, went to work and stopped fighting for causes. Oh sure, we wrote checks; I still do but I’m not rich–I’m unemployed. So the money being sent to organizations like the Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Audubon Society just doesn’t seem like very much. In fact, in light of all the ecological problems this island, Earth, is facing, it seems downright pitiful
Stuck in the circular thinking of I can’t solve all the problems so why bother, I was left wondering just how can one person make a difference?
Then a card arrived in the mail. It was a small, nondescript card from an organization unknown to me and asking for a donation. And although I don’t have much money, I sent them a donation the same day I opened their envelope. Why?
They answered my question.
The Ocean Conservancy asked for $18.00 if I could spare it. In return, they offered me five small steps — steps that one person could take and, literally, start a “sea change.”
- Don’t pour harsh chemicals down the drain or into storm sewers. The only end up in the drinking water down stream. DO seal and wrap them in the original containers and call your city or county waste center for disposal instructions.
- Don’t litter or throw trash in streams, on the shoreline or in the ocean. DO volunteer to help rid our seas of the trash that can kill or entangle marine wildlife. Volunteer for the Ocean Conservancy’s coastal clean up by calling 1-800-262-BEACH.
- Don’t use commercial cleaners – products that contain bleach and ammonia. Substitute the ones our grandparents used, like white vinegar, baking soda and borax. They clean as well and cause much less damage.
- Don’t drop your boat into the water and drive out into the lake or the ocean with loose debris or packaging that could blow off the deck. DO look for and dispose of anything that could drop overboard before setting sail.
- Don’t keep flushing thousands of gallons of usable water down your toilet. Do fill a plastic water bottle with water and place it in your tank. You could save up to 5,000 gallons of water every year.
Everyone can do every one of these things. Not one of them costs anything to do. If you are living on this planet and enjoying this diverse community we call the world, you can join people from all walks of life and make a difference.
Thank you to that person, toiling somewhere in the offices of the Ocean Conservancy, who like me probably thought that one day he, she, I, we could save the world. Because he or she reminded me, we can.
Scrooge is alive and well and should be living in your house…if you are spending more than you earn. By now, because you’ve done the hard work of laying out income and outflow…you know if Scrooge is a guest at your table.
You’re almost ready for the big finale but first, a word of warning. What you’re going to do now is a whole lot easier than laying out expenses but the first time you see the numbers in black and white (and maybe a little red), you might experience some pain so be prepared.
In the first scenario, one significant other loses her income but the other keeps his. These numbers look pretty good and more than cover the costs so this couple can go ahead and spend everything they are used to spending right? Well, no, not unless they want to hit a financial brick wall really hard.
|Hers||His||Total Post Tax|
What do you mean? Their income is exceeding their expenses, why can’t they keep on living a little high? I will answer that question with another. What happens when both partners are on social security?
Income will drop to about $40,000 per year, assuming both make it to their “retirement” years. And expenses will still be $51,000. This one’s easy. This couple will instantly be $11,750 short and the road to financial ruin is pretty much downhill from there.
So, what do you do when you find your income is very close to your expenses or maybe even less than your expenses? Some hacking! And you do it as early as possible so you can build a little pad behind your income that can carry you through short years.
Cut entertainment and get $5500 or half the required amount back. Draconian? Yes but necessary to balance the budget.
Start getting serious about your food shopping. If you work it right, you could shave $50 a week off your food bill without trying too hard (more on that later). That’s another $2600 cut off your expenses.
You could probably save another $2600 just by planning trips to the store and ride sharing to cut down the gasoline bill.
Look at your phone, internet and television bill and see what you can shave off of them. Taking $20 a month off the phone and $30 off the cable bill quickly adds up to another $600 saved. Just with these three tips, you will save $11,300, immediately – just $400 dollars away from the nut you need to stay solvent.
Get rid of any credit card debt and pay down those items that make up the “fixed costs” like car loans and your mortgage as quickly as you can. That may mean taking a second job but now is the time to make sacrifices and balance your own budget. Waiting until you “get retired” will move you from balancing on the edge to spinning down the mountain, out of control – not where you want to be when your golden years are thrust upon you by being laid off, severed or “retired early.”
Balancing your books is relatively easy. You just have to have the time, the information and a little determination to draw a clear picture of what you have, what you owe and what you need to bridge the gap. Warning – some charts are involved! Aspirin may be required once you see the numbers.
Using pen on paper or a PC, whatever you are most comfortable with, get started laying out your expenditures. You need to be able to answer one simple question: where do you regularly spend money?
A great way to get started is to create spending categories. If you are lucky, your credit card company already has your categories broken out and will even provide an annual summary and detail statement of every dime you charged every time you charged in the prior year.
If you don’t have access to that kind of information, general categories could include things like gasoline or transportation costs, food, electricity, communication including phone, TV and high speed internet, rent or mortgage payments, car payments, entertainment, personal upkeep for dry cleaning and hair dresser costs and a category for sundries like make up, shampoo, lotions and potions Just make sure you capture everywhere that you spend money….yes, including Starbucks.
Once you have the categories, make sure you add some categories for those once a year charges. Why? Because these one-time costs that will KILL your budget if you don’t. These are items like insurance – life, car and house and taxes including property taxes and school taxes. In the example below these are called “Fixed” costs.
Now add up the columns. If you did monthly costs, multiply by 12 to get annual, recurring costs.
Add the one-time, once a year charges and you will get your total, annual outlay which might look something like this.
Add the numbers up and it comes to $42,300.00. Now that’s a whole lot of post tax income needed to keep the engine of your life running. So, the next step is to see if your post tax income is going to cover the expenses.