Need Some Ideas

I’m running low on ideas for posts on here, so I want to get some feedback.  What topics/ideas would you like to hear about on this blog?  Do you have a specific financial question in which you would like an answer?  I’ll give you my advice on how I’d handle the situation, if you want to know.  Let me know any comments on what you’d like to hear. 

Leave a comment below with any questions you have, or feel free to email jd@pohlman.us. If you want to remain anonymous, just state so in an email, and I’ll change your name and some minor details before I add it up here.

My Typical Monthly Financial Routine

Everyone has routines in their life.  I thought I’d share my financial routine with everyone.  I budget everything month to month, and live off last month’s income.  So I get to start with a clean slate at the beginning of every month.  Here’s how my typical budgeting routine goes throughout the month.

Sometime within the first few days of each month, I go through each account’s transactions online and make sure I’ve got everything recorded in YNAB.  I check every transaction with each bank/credit card and make sure I’ve got everything recorded.  This includes all our paychecks for the previous month, as that’s what we use to budget for the current month.  That way we know exactly how much money we have to spend for the month right when it begins.

Next, I check the budget for the previous month.  I try to make sure we don’t have any overages in any specific category, and I shift from excess categories to fill in the overages.  I could let it bleed into next month (with YNAB’s awesome Rule 3 – Roll With the Punches), but I try to prevent that from happening as much as possible.  I include a category I call Buffer that I use to spread across the overage accounts.  I do this for two reasons.  First, I intentionally make our tempting categories (i.e. eating out) lower than what we typically spend.  It’s a psychological game.  If we see a higher number in the eating out category, we’ll spend more.  Second, if we do happen to go over in categories, I’ve got some extra cushion to cover it.  My goal is to not spend more than what we’ve got in our buffer.

Once I adjust the previous month’s budget, I look at the new month’s budget.  I like to keep a “typical” month’s budget in place for the next unused month.  I stress typical, because there is no such thing as a typical month.  So when I get here, I copy the current template to the next month.  YNAB has this cool feature to copy the previous month’s budget to the current month’s budget, so this takes me seconds.  This allows me to save for semi-annual or annual purchases (like car insurance, life insurance, etc.). 

Once that’s copied over, I start making the adjustments to the current month, based on what our plans are for the upcoming month.  This is the part where I bring my wife in, so we can plan the month out together.  That helps promote good communication, and makes sure you are both on the same page.

So now that we’ve got a budget for the month, I go through and pay off our student loan debt.  All our extra income goes to one of the student loans, so paying these off first allows us to do a “pay yourself first” type of budget.  If things get tight at the end of the month, we can’t decide to just pay less toward debt, because it’s already paid.  It’s just another psychological move that works for us.

Once I’m done with all that, I go to www.networthiq.com, and update our net worth.  YNAB has this built in now, but I’ve been doing it longer at networthiq, and I like their graph.  The goal of this exercise is to try to get our net worth to keep going up over time.

That’s my routine for the beginning of the month.  During the rest of the month, I just record receipts and try to stay within our budgeted amounts.  Once or twice during the month, I’ll make sure everything lines up with all of our accounts, so it takes less time at the beginning of the next month.  If we go over in a category, I’ll take some out of the buffer to cover it.  If we get to the point of the buffer getting low/empty, I’ll shift some allocated money from excess categories to cover the overages, and the items in those categories will just have to wait until the next month before we can purchase them.

How do you budget your money?  Leave me some feedback in the comments below.  Do you have something formal you do every month/paycheck, or do you just spend the money as you get it?

New Year’s Goals – Progress Update – Seven Months

Lots of things changed over the past month that affect my New Year’s Goals.  We ended up renting our old house, so we will get no income from selling it.  We will also have to pay $150/mo in addition to what the renters are paying to break even on all the expenses, but that’s still less than we paid with the previous renters, so we’re happy.  The weather was extremely hot this month, and we had our baby, which both made it really difficult to run this month.

  1. Sell old house.
    Goal canceled.  We found renters, but still have to pay $150/mo in addition to their rent.  They seem like really good people, stable, and they appear to pay their rent on time.  Hopefully this works out as a good situation for the both of us.
  2. Reduce non-house debt by 47.57%.
    Due to us paying on two mortgages again this month, we have fallen even further behind on this goal.  Reduced by 19.47% so far, where we should be more like 27.75%.  We are more in line with the revised goal (19.46%).  Since we rented out the house, we can put more toward debt this month, which should reflect in next month’s payments, but we won’t pay anything toward debt for the two months after that (due to Megan being out of work without pay for two months to care for our newborn baby).  Here’s a graph of how we’re doing so far.
  3. Be able to jog 5 miles without walking.
    Slowed down a little this month, due to the heat and baby being born.  I ran a few times, but not enough.  I need to get back on pace, now that the weather appears to be getting back to normal temperatures.
  4. Do 100 push ups in 3 minutes.
    Haven’t touched this in a few months.  I really need to start getting this back into my routine.
  5. Do 200 sit-ups in 3 minutes.
    See the push ups.

We really took a hit this month, since we had to pay two mortgages for the second straight month.  That will finally change next month, where I expect it to jump back up quite a bit.  After that though, it’ll come back down to where it is now since we will have two months without Megan’s paychecks.

Welcome Brooke Catherine

On Saturday night, a miracle happened to our household.  We now have a baby daughter called Brooke Catherine.  She was born at 9:04 pm, weighed 7lb, 14oz, and was 19in long.  Megan ended up being in labor for 13 1/2 hours, and I’m only counting the time after they broke her water.  We were in the hospital for 12 1/2 hours prior to that while they induced her.  Brooke was due 3 days prior, and the doctor thought she wasn’t going to progress much for a while, so we decided to induce.

Just a few minutes old

Brooke came out healthy, but faced up, so Momma was really sore afterward.  She’s recovering now though, and we’re finally starting to get a routine put back in place.  My mother in law has been staying with us for the past week, and she’s been a tremendous help.  I don’t know what we would have done without her.

Holding onto the blanket her great grandma made for her

So far, she’s been a really good baby.  She has her days and nights mixed up, but she finally slept through most of last night.  She doesn’t cry much, and she’s really alert at times, trying to figure things out.

She's a little butterfly

Obviously, she was crying right after she was born, and all the tests were done.  Since my wife was in a lot of pain, and the doctor had to sew her back up, they gave me our new baby.  She was crying hard when they gave her to me, and I started talking to her.  As soon as I said something, she quit crying because she recognized my voice.  She looked me in the eyes like she knew who I was.  Since then, I can always get her to calm down when she’s crying.

Staring into my eyes, realizing I'm her father

Once we got her home, we thought she’d be startled by the dogs, but she recognized their voices as well.  They’re both really good with her too.  Abby keeps going up and smelling her, and Bella just runs the other way (like she does with everything).  I think Abby’s realizing that she needs to protect Brooke too, like she protects us.  When she was sleeping the first day, the dogs started barking really loud about 5 feet away from her.  They were really loud, running right by her while they were barking for about 5-10 minutes.  She didn’t even get phased by it.  She slept right through it, like she’s done it for 9 months.

Isn't she the most beatiful thing?

As far as the name goes, we both got what we wanted.  Megan wanted something different (Brooke), and I wanted something that was more traditional with meaning (Catherine was my grandmother’s name).  We had a list of names that neither of us could agree on, but we made the decision to name her in just a few minutes once we saw her.  She just looked like a Brooke to us.