20 January 2011

Family Finances


Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances.  Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

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So.
I'm poor.
Not tragically so.
We're fine.
Gabriel and I are fine.
But.
We're not too comfortable.
If I lost my job, we'd be screwed.
I always feel a little weird talking finances on my blog, because on the one hand, there are so many people out there who are worse off, and I feel like a jerk for complaining.  But I haven't felt particularly financially secure for years now, so when finances come up, I don't generally have non-complainy things to say.
I'm a single mother working as a glorified secretary with a full time daycare bill, credit card debt, student loans, a car payment, and general living expenses. 
This is, for the most part, fine I guess since it has to be fine.  Gabriel and I manage.  I earn enough to (just) pay my bills, and I'm generally good about not spending beyond my means. 
 My official spending plan is this one.  It's really, surprisingly effective.  And the sure fire way to get out of debt!  Try it!

To help me with the central thesis of my spending plan, I also do the following:
-I have an automatic debit savings account, and I do it through IngDirect, because that way it's not really that easy to put my savings back into my checking account.
-I keep a financial journal, where I write down every dollar I spend on anything.  Sort of like a food journal, but for money. It just raises my awareness, and the knowledge that I have to write it down keeps me out of Starbucks most of the time, and keeps my shoe collection in check.
-I pay all my bills first.  I can squeeze blood out of a stone, and will somehow find a way to put food on the table and gas in the tank.  If I worry about groceries and transportation before I take care of the bills, I just won't have the money to pay the bills.  I can't really explain this, because it doesn't make sense, even to me.  But it works.
-My credit cards are literally frozen.  In a block of ice in my freezer.  It sounds childish and weird, I know that.  But I have been known to suffer from impulse control problems (hello ADD, my old friend), and it keeps me from buying something now on the assumption of a windfall I may be getting later.  It also keeps me from using credit at the gas station (just for instance), which is something that I used to do when it got towards the end of the month and I started to get nervous about my low bank balance.  It still gets to the end of the month, and I still get nervous about my low bank balance, but without a credit card in my wallet, I just fret about it, instead of buying stuff I can't afford (seriously you guys, it's the BEST spending plan).
-I don't keep any credit card info saved to my online accounts, for the same reason as above.
-I pay for blogging/internet  type social activity with the money I make blogging.  That extra stuff never comes from my regular budget at all, frankly because I can't afford to let it.  So I just treat it as a whole separate enterprise.  
-I use my tax return each year to pay off a big chunk of bills and pad my savings, which then helps me throughout the months following. 

Anyhow, yeah.
We make it, barely.
And now you know a little bit about the hows and whys.

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