Author: diylifeimprovementblog

I Need A Budget

I decided I need a budget.

I’ve been playing with some commercial software lately called YNAB (You Need A Budget).  It’s good stuff.

A long time ago…when I graduated from college the first time though, I created a budget using a simple Excel spreadsheet.  Based on my income, I allocated an amount for the payment I’d make each month on each of my debt & expense amounts – everything from my student loads to my rent, car payment, insurance, etc.  I used the snowball method to apply any extra money from one debt to the next as I paid off each item in succession.  It worked very well for me, such a simple tool, but my life was much simpler then, too.

Now I have multiple debit cards, bank accounts, I even have a credit card or two – one of the downsides of rebuilding credit is that I have a couple of credit cards and I use them each month as a means to improve my credit.

I downloaded a free trial of YNAB and gave it a try.  They give you a month to try it out.  I entered all of my information, very excited to find something that might actually help me start to have a plan for my income.

As usually happens with me, I soon fell off the YNAB wagon.

It became cumbersome to sit and enter my receipts, and even worse to try to enter information about online purchases.  I used the excuse of “I’m working too many hours right now to do this…” and let it fall to the wayside.

Fast-forward to after the busy Christmas season at work, when I’m finally getting a day off of work here and there, and I found YNAB on my computer again.  I also learned the developer just released an Android version, and hey, coincidence – I was just upgraded from a Blackberry at work to a Samsung smartphone.

As I’m prone to do when considering an expenditure of even $60, I researched a little more.  The Android app is free because you need the full desktop version of the software to use it.

The mobile version, where you can enter receipts on the go and it automatically syncs with your desktop software, looks like this:

ynab_mobile

I also Googled “YNAB Promo Code” and came up with someone’s link that would save me $6 on the purchase.  I spent the $54 on it and proceeded to activate the software, download the app to my work phone (we are allowed to use it for personal use, too) and started entering everything I could find from the gap of time when I first started the free trial through to today.  This isn’t something that is going to happen in an hour, or even a week.  While it’s fairly easy to download and get started (and they provide some awesome online “classes” to help you with that) it is time-intensive to enter your information.

This is how the main account screen appears:

ynab4_account_split_trans

I’ll be posting weekly on how I’m doing with my fun new software and I’ll be brutally honest in whether I feel it’s helping me budget my income or not.  After all, $54 is a lot to spend on something if you decide it’s too much effort to use.

In the meantime, if you’d like to give YNAB a try, click on any of the pictures in this link to take you to the YNAB webpage.  And if you decide to buy it, I’d be grateful if you’d purchase through my referral link below – just click on the picture below – and this will save you $6 and net me $6 as well…which of course, I’ll put toward my debt annihilation project.

Stay tuned to see how YNAB works for me!

YNAB_logo

Found Money

Yesterday I rolled up some change that I’d collected for the last year or so. I started throwing money in this sturdy cardboard box when I lived in South Carolina, then I moved briefly to PA and carried it with me. I’ve been adding to it over the months with my loose change. I also went about the house and gathered up change I found lying about.

You won’t believe this. Just over $94 total. I left 3 $10 bills on the counter for the change that I collected that wasn’t mine, and the rest – $64 – was all mine. I can’t believe I collected $64 in change in just over a year. Amazing!

coinstar

The box is sitting here, waiting. Waiting for Coinstar to offer a deal where they top off $40 in change with an additional $10 credit for using their service. They’ve offered that often and I usually take advantage of it, but last year I was living in a motel room in PA for the holiday season and I was using every dime I had to survive. This year? I’m patient, I’ll wait them out. It will happen, and I’ll get $50 toward Amazon.

A little scary that Coinstar keeps track of the money I turn in…my last trip was $15.73 in Amazon credit.

Sign up for a Coinstar account – it’s free, and they’ll send you special offers by email.  Redeeming coin for credit is free – they don’t deduct a fee.

How much spare change do you have lying around the house, and are you going to put it to good use?

Let’s start with debt…

What percentage of American households have debt? Google that and you’ll get many different answers. The real answer? Who cares! This isn’t about the rest of the world – this is about you. And if you carry debt, like I do, you will never be free. Free to quit your job and try something new. Free to upsize or downsize your life. Free to add children, or pets, or buy a new car…well, maybe that’s going overboard. I mean, you can always just incur more debt, right? Get a second mortgage, add a car loan into the mix, take out student loans? Sure you can! That’s the American way of life!

Well, I’m tired of it. I don’t want it to be MY way of life. I’ve had good years, bad years, great years…I’ve seen it all. Currently, my debt is astronomical. What is higher than astronomical? Because I’ve actually paid down quite a bit of debt over the past four years. How much? I have no idea. Really. None. My head has been stuck in the sand like an ostrich. I don’t want to know. Do I?

Here’s the thing – until MY debt is paid off, I will never FEEL free. There is always guilt creeping in when I buy something, whether it’s new clothes, a piece of furniture, even groceries. I had a failed business. I walked away from a mortgage. I lost my job, my business, my car, my dog…pretty much my entire life as I knew it, back in 2009. I’ve been rebuilding ever since. I honestly do not know the exact dollar amount of how much I still owe.

But to be free? Debt-free, again, as I once was? That will be a good day.

How will I get there? As I have been – paying as much as I can from each paycheck. Watching what I do spend. Curbing the urges to spend money on things I don’t need. But in reality, this has not been enough. I’m keeping even with interest, and I’ve paid off several debts over the last four years (more to come on that) but it’s still looming over me. I need to step things up, become accountable for 100% of my income, my outflow, and I need to purge my life of things I’ve held on to for whatever reason, usually sentimental reasons. Thus begins my journey to a better way of life.

They say the best way to start is to figure out where the money is going. Complete honesty here – I will be tracking every penny via this blog so that I can become accountable to myself, first, and second – so I can see the progress I’ve made. Without feedback, and a sense of progress, this journey I’m on sometimes seems overwhelming. Welcome to my version of Life Improvement, DIY-style.

Welcome!

Welcome to DIY Life Improvement!

This blog is all about improving YOU.

Want to lose weight? Get out of debt? Find your soulmate? It all begins with YOU. Being open to change, open to possibility, and open to the idea that it won’t be easy. There’s no magic pill or potion, no kit you can purchase, no Guru out there who is going to do it for you. It’s all about you – wanting it enough and being willing to make the changes in your life.

If you are at that point in your life where you want change, you want something better in your life, then welcome! Come along for the ride with me, because I am making huge changes, all for the better.

Losing weight, paying off debt, making a family – I want it all!

So, welcome.