Tag Archives: Saving Money

Personal Finance: Stuff to Think About

Every year, I try to share a few tips, tricks and other things that make a difference in our financial life.

The Marcus Savings Account by Goldman Sachs (yes it is called that) is currently yielding 2.25% interest. Seriously.

We use Mint to keep track of all of our spending in aggregate. In our opinion (mine and Marcus’) it is a terrible budgeting platform but we use that along with our Excel spreadsheet to run our actual budget. I also have friends who use You Need A Budget (YNAB) and love it. I will note that YNAB is a paid service.

ALDI. If you’re not doing it you need to give it a try. I could go on and on about the reasons why but ultimately unless you are shopping at a premium/gourmet grocery store, you are paying too much for your shopping experience (and your groceries). For example, at the beginning of January, there was one trip where I was able to purchase a few cases of Spindrift AND I found chicken thighs being sold for $0.79/lb with an additional $1.00 off the entire package. Their organic kids fruit and veggie pouches are like $0.79 per pouch. They have everything, the quality is great.

We have allowances each week that we use for meals out with friends and personal purchases (clothing, lattes, books, etc.). It gives us a way to have fun without paying attention to what the other person is spending.

Finding a method to curb impulse spending. A great one I have found is to keep a list on my iPhone of the things I want to buy. If it isn’t already on the list I cannot buy it.

We accept basically all hand-me-downs we are offered for the kids and we work to purchase as much of their clothing as possible used. Until 2018 I did not have as much energy for this but something clicked and now I do have the time to go to Goodwill, the local kids’ consignment shop, or garage sales or sometimes I’ll even use eBay. My mom and mother-in-law also help in the hunt. I manage this by keeping track of what I already have for them in their next sizes up. With this in mind, I know what to look for and can start looking 3-6 months in advance. We also pass things onto friends to keep the cycle going.

As always, if you have any tips and tricks that have worked for you this year, feel free to share them in the comments!

Advertisements

The State of our Financial Union: 2019 is Here!

This is probably a much shorter post than many of you were expecting but there is only so much to be said.

This year we expect our overall savings rate to decrease significantly – we will be paying for two children to attend daycare and that costs a lot of money.  We all know! Critter didn’t start daycare until he was 19 months old and Glitter will not start until she is 16 months old. We are so lucky we have only had to pay for any daycare for a year and a half but like I said, now we will pay for two kids worth.

We will direct the majority (or all) of our savings efforts toward our retirement accounts. We will also maintain the same contributions to the kids’ 529 accounts. The only way that this will change is if we get raises or bonuses. In that case the money will go towards cash savings or charitable giving.

The biggest home improvement we plan to make is installing a large play set in our backyard. This is really a gift to ourselves.

We will maintain emergency funds for the possible situation in which we need to replace my 2006 Honda CRV or our 30 year old air conditioner and 20 year old furnace or everything. We hope we don’t have to replace anything but based on the ages I just listed, I am sure you can understand why we will always have to have a plan for this.

That’s a wrap! Feel free to share your own goals/questions/thoughts in the comments.

The State of our Financial Union: 2018 in Review

Why am I sharing this? As always, on the chance you are curious about what others do with their $$$. I’ll also share in separate posts what we are doing for 2019 and some tools or information sources I have found to be useful this year. As always, I’d love to hear what you are up to or any resources you want to share!

When I reflect on what we are doing financially, I give thanks to the Lord every day for provisioning us.  Marcus and I try to keep up our end of the bargain by being mindful of what we have, and by paying it forward to those who need it through acts of philanthropy and service.

Our Total Savings Rate was 23.7% of our net income. This was broken out as 70% into our retirement accounts (Roth 401(k)s), 21% into cash and 8% into 529 savings plans for Critter and Glitter’s education. I know that only totals 99% – I didn’t want to get into minutiae of percentages so I rounded. I am sure you all understand and directionally get where we are going here.

Charitable Giving comprised 4.11% of our net income.

Pre-Tax Accounts.  We continued to max out our HSA account because we have a high deductible health plan.  As everyone knows, when you have little ones you go to the doctor a lot.  So we spent all of it! We also maxed out our contributions to a dependent care FSA this year.  As I am sure we all know, that comes nowhere near paying for our full daycare need, but being able to set aside some of that money tax free really helps. 

You’ll notice that I did not list 401(k)s here.  That is because we participate in Roth 401(k)s post-tax instead of traditional pre-tax 401(k)s.  We also maintain separate Roth IRAs that we contribute to as we are able to in any given year.

Fin. I’ll post later this week/next week with our reality and plans for 2019 (Spoiler alert it involves doubling our daycare bill! Fun!).

The State of Our Financial Union: 2018 is Here!

YOU GUYS. I just don’t know what to say here. At the current moment we are not planning exotically interesting things financially. More stay the course.

As always we’ll contribute 10 – 11% of our income to our 401(k)s. We’ll plan to save another 10% of our post-tax income in cash and investments. Something that helps us with this strategy is that we do not spend our raises. Thus, we can increase our budget when we need to due to cost of living increases, but we still have some extra cushion.

What do we have planned?

We’ll max out a Dependent Care FSA. We have never had one of these before! It won’t fully cover this year’s daycare bill but it WILL lower our taxable income. WIN!

Continue to max out our HSA. Contribute to Section 529 plans for both children. Contribute to our 401(k)s and Roth IRA. Boring dot com. Planning on our future selves thanking our past selves for this.

Last year we maxed out our HSA and we spent all but $400 of it paying for Glitter’s birth and meeting our max out of pocket (party!). We’re hopeful we might be able to keep a little more cash in the HSA this year and actually invest it.

We’re planning for some (bigger) house purchases. We’ll be replacing both garage doors and openers this spring. It simply needs to be done. Our water softener has died (RIP) so we’re having a new one installed Friday. We also have saved to purchase a kitchen table (when we find it). I would like to (myself) paint our master bathroom. An entertainment center for the family room is on the way (and a new rug and lamp arrived earlier this month). All of these expenses are covered by the moving budget that we allocated last year – we didn’t spend all of the money in July when we moved because we knew it would take time to settle in and see what we needed.

Stay off cable TV.

We didn’t set up cable when we moved into our house and we plan to keep it this way. Instead we are using a combination of: an antenna (free TV from the air!!!), Sling, and Netflix. This combination allows us to watch all of the shows we love and thanks to Sling’s setup, we can watch TV when we want, not just live!

The State of our Financial Union: 2017 in Review

Why am I sharing this? As always, on the chance you are curious about what others do with their $$$. I’ll also share in separate posts what we are doing for 2018 and some tools or information sources I have found to be useful this year. As always, I’d love to hear what you are up to or any resources you want to share!

This was a banner year and I will just say outright I give thanks to the Lord every day for provisioning us. Marcus and I try to keep up our end of the bargain by being mindful of what we have, and by paying it forward to those who need it through financial donations and volunteerism.

Our post-tax savings rate (Roth 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, brokerage accounts, 529 plans, cold hard cash) was about 25% of our income this year. Pre-tax, we also maxed out an HSA (which we promptly spent most of having a baby!). Back pat, golf clap. What did we all do?

We saved some money.  Things that help us to achieve our savings goals: not spending our raises, living with my parents while we were trying to find a house. Other motivations: not wanting to worry about money. Ever.

We bought a house. Our overall cash stash decreased a bit this year because we were saving to purchase a house! That said, the down payment and repair/renovation money was always in its own silo if that makes sense? We always knew where and what it was going to. I will say that we greatly benefitted from the sale price of our home. There is a high demand in our market for “affordable” housing, which is what our townhouse was considered.

We sold some stuff.  Like the fan that was in the dining room of our house (who has a ceiling fan in their dining room?!).  The refrigerator in our basement.  The large sectional couch I should not have allowed into my house in the first place (it has a new life as a throne for a squad of Dungeons and Dragons players…seriously).  Our old patio furniture that does not fit on our new deck.  So we made a few extra bucks.  I also want to give a shout-out to Marcus for believing that we actually could sell that couch.  It took about three tries to find serious buyers but we did it!

We started using our Roth IRAs as a medium term savings vehicle. This is a longer story so it is going to be a separate post with some additional information so you can determine if this is right for you.

We pre-paid our 2018 property taxes.  To take advantage of current tax laws before the new tax laws go into effect for 2018. There is some debate about whether or not you can deduct these on your 2017 taxes. Either way we were going to pay the property taxes so this gives us our best shot at maximizing a tax benefit. If we didn’t pre-pay them our window of opportunity shrunk to zero.

We advanced some 2018 charitable giving into the end of 2017.  Again to take advantage of current tax laws before the new tax laws go into effect for 2018. We didn’t give anything we weren’t planning to already.