We are in the heat of summer, and I’m so thankful for Colorado weather. For the past couple of weeks, it has literally rained every day! I’m originally from the Vegas desert, so I will never get tired of extra moisture.
June flew by quickly! Basketball practices and tournaments, summer movies, doctor’s appointments, and an out-of-town trip for my husband and son took up most of the month. My daughter is working two jobs and trying to pass her driver’s license test (hoping third time’s a charm!).
I have been keeping a close eye on our finances, updating our budget spreadsheet every couple of days. I love, love, love being able to budget off of last month’s income. I pay all of our bills within the first week of the month (which is great for reducing stress!) so I know whatever our balance is after that is what we have left for everything else – for the rest of the month! This really helps keep things in perspective and gives me the freedom to adjust our discretionary spending as needed.
Which brings me to another point – it dawned on me the other day that I do quite a bit of adjusting with our budget as the month progresses. I’m always taking money from one category and adding it to another, basically because of overspending. And this made me realize that I’m not really “budgeting”, I’m just tracking.
I can budget $500 for groceries, but end up spending over $700 and taking that overage from somewhere else. So I’m not really staying within the boundaries I’ve set for myself. This is something I need to work on because part of budgeting is learning how to be disciplined with your money. As much as I dislike the idea, I may end up trying the envelope method. I’ll keep you posted!
With all of that said, here is the good and bad for June.
- GOOD: A bonus from May was having 5 Fridays on the calendar, which meant 5 paychecks to budget with in June. This really helped with my husband’s trip to Vegas and other expenses that came up.
- GOOD: I have been really pleased with our switch to Ting for our cell phone service. For me and two of my kids, it’s consistently hovered between $80-$100 a month. I could even get it lower if I put restrictions on our usage, but for now, I’m okay budgeting this amount.
- GOOD: Our 0% balance transfer promotional rate expired in June, so I had to find another credit card to switch to. Thankfully, I found a great deal through U.S. Bank for a 0% balance transfer rate that’s in effect for 20 months and no annual fee! I still had to pay 3% of the transfer amount, but I know that is still less than what I would pay in interest.
- BAD: Even though I was approved in plenty of time to transfer my balance, U.S. Bank dropped the ball due to some company-wide security precaution. They ended up not transferring the balance before my other credit card’s 0% expiration, and I actually had to call and request the transfer a second time. This means I will probably get charged interest on my balance from my first card, which is what I was trying to avoid!
- BAD: Fees for summer basketball leagues have been higher than expected. It’s our first year having this experience and I didn’t realize having a kid in a sport could be so expensive! However, I’ve made it a priority to do what we can to keep him training and playing because it’s his favorite thing to do and he really works hard at it.
- BAD: My husband and youngest son traveled to Las Vegas for a target shooting class. They’ve been going for the past few years, but this time I wanted to put it in our budget instead of just winging it. I asked my husband a few times how much he would need, and he downplayed the cost because they were staying at my mom’s and would just need to do a little grocery shopping. He said probably under a couple of hundred dollars. Well, about 3 days into the trip he was already up to $400. I had to tell him to stop spending money.
- GOOD: A few years back I had this great idea to apply for credit cards that offered points for traveling. We had just sold our house in Vegas and wanted to make some improvements to our home here in Colorado. I figured we could charge these big expenses on the cards, pay it off with the proceeds from our house sale, and then have tons of points to travel for free with! Well, I did pay them off, but we didn’t travel so I never used the points. I decided to cancel the credit card once I saw the $95 annual fee on a recent statement and then learned that I’ll lose all the points if I don’t use them first. So I did! I was able to get some free Amazon and AMC gift cards, and we were able to go to the movies 3 times in June for free!
- GOOD: I’m noticing some real progress with our medical bills. I pay about $100 a week from our Health Savings Account card and slowly, slowly, I’m seeing the balances go down. Also, our daughter has been more stable than she has in the last two years, so we’re seeing fewer medical bills come in (hallelujah!). Our health insurance renews every July, so I’m hoping we are actually able to save some of the contributions we make to our HSA this next year.
- GOOD: We gave a bird to our daughter for her high school graduation gift. Yes, a bird. Specifically, a macaw that she had fallen in love and was already starting to make payments on. We paid the balance as a gift and now Harlee is 100% owned by our daughter. She didn’t know whether to smile or cry when we told her! The good news is that the store made a mistake with the balance I paid, and I ended up getting a refund of $100!
- BAD: My daughter had found a new therapist she wanted to try, and she had 3 appointments before she decided not to stick with it. Unfortunately, I found out after I paid out-of-pocket for the 3 appointments that our insurance would not cover the cost because we haven’t yet met our family deductible. That really sucked.
- BAD: What also sucked was that I put the therapy fees on a credit card, thinking I would be able to pay them off quickly with the insurance reimbursement. Now I have $300 more on my credit card.
- BAD: Our food bills for June were still way over budget. Between groceries and dining out, we spent over $1,200 on food! Only 3 restaurant bills were over $25, but there were a lot of smaller dining expenses between $5-$15. Looks like I need to cut out some of those spontaneous Starbucks runs and drive-thru snacks. And I really need to get a better handle on our grocery bill. I’ll let you know what I come up with for July!
- GOOD/BAD: I used to pay our life insurance premium monthly, until I found out I’m paying close to $100 extra for that convenience! Last summer I paid the annual bill in full, and it’s been great not having that monthly expense any more! But then I forgot about it. At least, until I got this year’s bill, and realized I never put it in the budget. Thankfully, with the 5th paycheck in our budget, I was able to pay for the 6-month premium. I still had to pay a little extra because I didn’t pay for the full year, but I would rather pay an extra $20 so I can use cash, instead of putting the annual bill on a credit card.
Our Savings & Our Debt
Our income goes way down in the summer because my husband gets much less over time and there are no summer substitute teaching jobs for me.
Because of this, we have a pretty tight budget without a lot left for debt and savings. I’m really looking forward to August when I’ll be going back to work and my husband’s job will pick up.
But for now, we pay what we can. In June, we were able to put $135 in our savings account – and didn’t have to take any out! We also paid $478 toward our debt. I want to triple that number this Fall when I hope to bring in an extra $1,500-$2,000 a month.
I am considering opportunities to publish online content for income. There are a few ways to do this, but they all take a considerable amount of time and effort. It probably won’t add a lot to our income, but I’d be happy making $200-$300 a month from doing something I really enjoy.
Despite the budget fails, unexpected expenses, and insurance disappointments, there is much to be grateful for.
- I’m thankful our daughter has been doing much better and has needed less medical attention recently.
- I’m thankful my husband and son got to spend a whole week together doing something they love and growing their relationship.
- I’m thankful my son has found so much enjoyment in playing basketball! He works hard at getting better, which keeps him busy with productive activities instead of playing video games all day.
- I’m thankful we have a small car that gets great gas mileage, for those basketball tournaments that are far away and for all the running around I have to do for my two non-driving kids.
- I’m (still) thankful for great health insurance that covers most of the costs we’ve had to take on.
- I’m thankful for all this rain we’re getting because that means our sprinklers have to run less and our water bill won’t be so high!
I could keep going, but you get the point! There’s a lot to be grateful for, even with all the constraints that a limited income, credit card debt and medical bills can bring.
What gives me hope is knowing that our financial situation is temporary. We made some bad decisions, got into some debt, and have had to take on a lot of health-related expenses. But step by step we are climbing out of the hole we’re in. I would rather make some sacrifices today so our retirement will be that much more secure.
How are you doing with your budget? Are you staying on track or have you “jumped” the track and headed for disaster?
If you feel like you’re failing, I just want to encourage you to get back up and keep trying. Each day is a new opportunity to start again. Even if you lose some traction, don’t give up on making progress. You’re worth it, and so is your future.