Monthly Archives: July 2007

Budget Busters: Areas For Improvement

I sat down tonight to review last month’s budget, and I overspent in a few categories. Why? Primarily, I’ve been this month and I never took that time to really look at how much money was “slipping through the cracks” in my system. Here’s my personal list of areas for improvement, and how I plan to avoid busting my budget in the future:

Problem: I spend to much for convenience store items: Bottled water, power bars, sodas, and snacks are way more expensive at the gas station than they are in the grocery store.

Solution: I need to do two things: One, I need to stop eating junk from the convenience stores and I need to put a couple of bottled waters and some fruit in a small cooler and keep it with me in the car for snacking. I’m on the road quite a bit, so a little forward-thinking would help out a lot.

Problem: I spent money to have my car washed at one of those drive-through car washes.

Solution: I need to stop being so lazy and wash my car. (Is it possible to be both too lazy AND too busy, at the same time? If so, that’s my life for the past six months.)

Problem: My electric bill was fifty dollars more than I expected it to be.

Solution: I need to remember to bump the air conditioner up a bit when I leave the house, turn off the lights when I leave the room, and adjust to the fact that it’s summer-time and the house doesn’t have to be sixty degrees all of the time. (Side note: I live in Georgia and the heat has been brutal for the past few weeks.)

Problem: I like to have my shirts and pants dry cleaned. This past month, I had several important meetings, and my dry cleaning bill was much higher than I expected it to be.

Solution: I can schedule “less formal” meetings, I can simply wash, dry, and iron my own clothing, or I can shop around for another dry cleaner. (Does anyone know if dry cleaning an article of clothing makes it last longer? If so, is there some way that I can convince myself that dry cleaning actually SAVES money, in the long run? Please, let it be so!)

Problem: I spent more on gas (surprise, surprise) than I initially intended. My wife has been off for the summer, so we’ve taken a few more trips, gone to a few more places, and driven a few more miles than we normally do in a month’s time.

Solution: Getting back to our “school schedule” will help, but we have begun to think about car pooling. Also, since we own a small car and a minivan, we need to plan to use the car on longer trips, because it gets better gas mileage. (The one major area where my No Credit Needed philosophy hurts “just a bit” is that I do not use cash-back credit cards. Since most major gasoline chains offer rebate cards, I “miss out”. But, our local grocery store also sells gasoline and they offer a loyalty-card discount of $.15 per gallon and that helps out a bit.) Of course, I keep the tires rotated, balanced, and at their correct air pressure.

Problem: I talked on my cell phone more than I should have and I went “over” my minutes.

Solution: I had to make a choice: Use fewer minutes or upgrade my plan. After analyzing my cell phone bills for the past six months, I made the decision that I needed to upgrade my plan. My wife and I share a family plan and she lives on the phone. My wife has been super-cool throughout this whole “personal finance upgrade” process, and using her cell phone is her “thing”. Instead of arguing over 200 extra minutes, I simply upgraded the plan. There are times when frugality must (and should) take a backseat to practicality.

We all have our struggles, areas where we find it hard to save money and be frugal. I never want to come across as the guy who’s “figured it all out”. I’m just like most people. I have my strengths and I have my (many) weaknesses. I have learned to be a better organized, somewhat forward-thinking, person, but I still struggle with controlling my day-to-day expenses. Hopefully, this post will inspire you to examine your budget so that you can determine your own areas for improvement.

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Follow My Every Move

Debt Monster recently introduced me to twitter. What is twitter? Good question. It’s this strange site where you blog about what you are doing and posts are just a few sentences long. If you’d like to find out what I’m doing, follow me here: http://www.twitter.com/NCN. If you have a twitter account, add me to your friends list (or contact me and let me know).

This week, I participated in the following personal finance carnivals:

Low Income Lady (a member of the No Credit Needed Network under the name: Weight Money Life) hosted this week’s Carnival of Debt Reduction.

Plonkee (also a member of the No Credit Needed Network) hosted this week’s Carnival of Personal Finance.

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Reader Poll: The Results (Smallest Balance Or Highest Interest Rate)

In a recently poll, I asked readers to vote for the best method for reducing debt.

Number of votes: 182

Votes for Method 1 (Pay smallest balance first.): 87

Votes for Method 2 (Pay highest interest rate first.) 95

As you can see, the numbers are very, very close. With just over 52% of the vote, Method 2: Focusing on the account with the highest interest rate first, is winning. Personally, I used Method 1; Focusing on account with smallest balance first, because I enjoyed the psychological boost I received whenever an entire account was eliminated. Several readers left comments, and I’ll be using those comments in future posts. For now, I’m going to leave the poll open, and if you’ve yet to vote or leave a comment, feel free to do so.

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Frugality On The Golf Course… Really? Are You Sure?

I love to play golf.  I love to save money.  Here’s how I do both.

  1. I take my own sodas and bottled waters in a small cooler.
  2. I purchase tees, gloves, and balls online.  If you wait until you are at the clubhouse to buy supplies, you’ll pay two or three times the price for the same items.
  3. I take my own snacks.  For each round, I pack a ‘power bar’ and a piece or two of fruit.  I skip the clubhouse restaurant and simply enjoy my snacks.
  4. I never play for money.
  5. I try to play after 4:00 PM when most courses give a twilight discount.  One local course has a 50% discount for rounds after 4:00 PM.

If you love golf, like I do, you are going to have to budget for it.  I spend a certain amount of money on the golf course and I’m happy to do so.  I enjoy the game, I like being on the course with my friends, and I find that the game relaxes me.  But, I also try to find little ways to save money.  Golf is an “expensive” hobby, but with a few smart choices, I’ve been able to make it a little less so.

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