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No Spend Month: The Halfway Point

no spend monthAs of this morning, I have reached the halfway point of my no spend month.   So how’s it going?

Well, before looking at the numbers, a few things that I have been doing:

1.  I stopped looking at all deals sites.  Zip. Zilch.  Nada.  I don’t even open the links.  It’s too easy to see something I “need” to buy.  And if it’s a deal, it’s worth the money, right?  Wrong.  Even if it’s something I’ve been wanting for a long time, right now I don’t have the money to spend.  That’s how life works.

2.  I’ve packed my lunch for work.  Every single day.  (Of course, this doesn’t mean that I’ve eaten it every day, as I got roped into going out to lunch with a friend last week.  But I tried.)

3.  I’ve been working to use up the foods in my pantry and freezer.  Why buy more when I have what I need?

4.  While this doesn’t have to do with spending, I sat down and clipped coupons this weekend.  I get a local newspaper because I wanted the online subscription, and when I subscribed, it was weirdly cheaper to get a hard copy of the Sunday paper along with the online subscription.  I justified it by saying I would save the subscription price in coupons… then never cut the coupons.  It’s a step in the right direction.

So things sound great, right?

The Spending

Well, it hasn’t been perfect.  As I said, I did go out to eat once.  And instead of grocery shopping, I splurged and went to one of those meal prep places.  I should sit down and calculate it out – it might actually be a better deal, since I came out of it with what calculates out to 24 servings of food.  But it was still an expense.  I also picked up some snacks for a friend and I for after a race we ran yesterday.  I probably should have bought less or not gone for the fancy snacks.

Timing also wasn’t great.  I had to get a crown on one of my teeth.  I’m hoping my insurance will reimburse a bunch of the cost, but even if not, it was something that needed to be done.  September is also the month where my cats go to the vet for their annual checkup and shots, and since they are now “seniors,” the vet recommended bloodwork.  I love these guys, so I paid the money for the added tests.  $500 later, it’s good to know that they are healthy and have many good years ahead of them.  I don’t count this as breaking the no-spend rules, even though it was an “optional” expense.  It’s just another place my money went.

The most random splurge was on teeth whitening strips.  My teeth aren’t bad, but I would like them to sparkle more, and after chatting with the dentist at one of my three appointments over the past month, he recommended a particular brand of whitening strips. So I bought them.  Probably something that could have waited.

One note – This month’s budget also has a number of refunds in the ledger lines.  Unexpectedly, when I cancelled my magazine subscriptions, I got money back.  I figured that it would just cancel at the end of the yearly subscription, but instead it cancelled right now and I got a refund.  Incredible!  Also, I had put a refundable deposit on a vacation for a year from now, and unrelated to no-spend month, my friends and I decided it just wasn’t going to work out, so we cancelled it and the money was refunded this month.  It’s nice to see those plus signs in the ledger lines!

So if I had to grade myself so far for the month, I would give myself a C+.  I’m doing pretty well, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.  No spend month means no superfluous spending, and I haven’t managed to accomplish that.

Have you ever had no spend months? Find success?

Popular Jobs Among The U.S. Population

glasses-book-coffee

As you know, there are thousands of jobs in the United States. But there are some types of employment, which numbers the largest amount of employees. The reason for this is not only a high demand for such workers in the labor market, also, the fact that in order to obtain such work place, person is not obliged to have a higher education and work experience.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25% of the population of the United States work at the following positions: sellers, cashiers, fast food workers, office clerks, nurses, waiters, customer service representatives, workers, janitors, secretaries, accountants and financiers, managers and drivers.

For example, working as an accountant or financier, you can receive a salary starting from $30,000 per year and up to incredible sums. Everything will depend on your skills, education and desires. On JobTonic.com you will easily explore vacancies in accounting field.

Some of the easier-to-get jobs:

  • To become a seller, you need to be a high school graduate. These workers earn an average of 25,000 per year.
  • If you want to be a cashier or, for example, fast food worker you are not obliged to have a higher education. Before you get started, you will be asked to undergo special training courses or. However, the salary on such positions is poor. The median income of cashier is $20,000, fast food worker earns an average of $18,000 a year.
  • Office clerks. Duties of office workers depend on the requirements of the company. In early 2013 in the United States there were 2.8 million office clerks. Their average salary is $ 29,270 per year.
  • Waiters. Today, 2.3 million waiters operates in the United States. The average salary is $ 20,710 per year.
  • Customer service representatives. Their responsibility is to answer questions, resolve points of contention in the stores and call centers. Today, 2.3 million Americans work in this position. Their salary is about $ 33,110 per year.
  • Workers (porters, drivers). 2.2 million jobs in the United States. Salary – $ 26,410 a year.
  • Cleaners. 2.1 million employed people, the salary – $ 24,850 a year.
  • Secretaries. 2 million Americans now work as secretaries. Salary is about $ 33,560 per year.
  • Workers in warehouses. 1.9 million people, whose salary is about $ 23,460 per year.
  • Managers. 1.6 million people. Salary is $ 110,550 per year.

Other popular jobs:

  • Nurse is the most common profession in health care. In the United States there are more than 2.6 million nurses. Their average annual salary is $ 67,930. In order to become a nurse you need to get a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, pass a medical practice and get a license.
  • An elementary classroom teacher. 1.5 million people are employed in this profession. The salary is $ 53,150 per year. Requirements: bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate.

On JobTonic you will find thousands of vacancies available throughout the US? The most popular and the most well-paid ones. All you need is to start searching.

Photo by Camera Eye Photography

No Spend Month

no spend monthLast week’s net worth exercise was really eye opening.  I knew that I had been spending more than I should be, but I didn’t realize just how bad it was.  And that’s a problem.

It’s sort of a “my diamond shoes are too tight” situation.  I’ve managed to get my budget into a place where I have extra funds, but rather than saving those funds, I let my self go a bit too crazy and I spent those funds.  And then some.  I’m clearly not spending myself into debt, but I’m getting pretty close to having to touch my savings, and that’s not good.  I should be increasing that savings, not dipping into it.

So I’m declaring September a “no spend month.”

Getting My Budget In Order with a No Spend Month

Now, that doesn’t actually mean I’m not going to spend money.  I still have to pay my bills.  I still have to buy groceries.  But every expenditure is going to be analyzed.  I’m not even looking at any of my favorite deals sites.  I don’t care who is having a sale.  I’m not buying anything extra this month.  Just the necessities.  I’m not going to eat out, I’m going to cook at home and try to use up what I have rather than buying more things from the grocery store.

I also took a hard look at where some of my money is going.  I was getting a couple of monthly subscription boxes that weren’t very expensive, maybe $10-$20.  But that adds up, so I cancelled them both.  I also finally cancelled my subscription to Runner’s World.  It’s only $12 a year, so i had been renewing it, but I never read it anymore, so why waste the money?  That sort of thing adds up (plus it adds to the clutter in my house).

I’m not going whole hog frugal.  But I’m really taking a look at where my money is going and pulling back where I can.  There are a number of things that I do want to buy (now that we’re out of summer attire at work and I’m back into dress clothes, I want to go shopping and upgrade my wardrobe a bit more), but that’s not happening this month.

It might not happen next month either.

I need to get my budget in order.  I need to be prepared for the bills that are coming this year.  Half of my property tax bill is due this month (and I have the payment scheduled) and the other half is due in December.  Had I stuck with my planning ahead, I would be ready for it, but instead, I only had enough set aside for the first part of the bill.  Going to have to tighten things up if I want to pay that bill without hitting my savings.

Again, it’s not an awful situation to be in.  I’ve put away money so that it’s there if I need it.  But I shouldn’t need it.  I should be able to make ends meet using my day-t0-day accounts and continue to grow my savings.

I’ve let things get out of hand and I need to really rein it in.

Do you ever take a hard look at your spending?  Have you ever done a no-spend month?

Net Worth: So How Am I Doing?

net worthI last updated my net worth in April after years of not updating.  As I said back then, this was no longer going to be a monthly exercise.  It’s a bit tedious, and I’m not sure a month by month comparison is all that telling.

I just finished updating my spreadsheet a little more than 4 months later, and I’m still not sure it’s all that telling.

So how am I doing?  Well, according to the numbers, my net worth is up 10%!  That’s huge!

But I’m not sure this is a realistic number.  Let’s discuss some of the changes.

The Increases

First off, my house value is up 3%.  That is a HUGE change.  I use Zillow to determine the current price estimate for my house rather than just use the purchase price.  (If you’re curious, Zillow has my price down about 2.5% from when I bought it.)  Did my house really improve that much since April?  Well, I did improve the closet.  But Zillow doesn’t know that.  A house on the next block over went on sale for a ridiculously high price.  According to the sign in the yard, it was under contract, then it was back on sale, then the listing appears to have been removed.  That could mean many things, but it ultimately means the house did not sell for that price.  I’m wondering if this is why the value went up though.

Next, my investments are doing quite well.  This includes both my regular investments and my retirement funds.   That always makes me happy.

However, these two increases are kind of meaningless.  First off, the home value is kind of an arbitrary number.  Besides, I’m not looking to sell anytime soon.  It just makes sense to include the number to offset the damage done by the mortgage.

As to the investments, I don’t do day to day investing.  My investing style is more “set it and forget it.”  Sure, I check in from time to time, but I’m not in it for short term gains. I’m in it for the long haul.  Especially when it comes to retirement accounts.  Retirement is a long, long time away.

The Decreases

Now, let’s look at the decreases.

My car value went down.  Kind of meaningless.  I plan to drive that thing into the ground.

My mortgage also went down.  This is a good thing, since it means I’m actually making my mortgage payments.

But my day-to-day cash accounts also decreased.  Not only did I spend a chunk of money on my closet, but I also have been spending more than I should be.  I’m not putting myself into debt – but I’m also not saving money like I should be either.  In fact, this month, the only savings I had was in the form of retirement.  I didn’t put anything into my long term accounts.  As a financial blogger, I’m embarrassed to admit that.  But it is what it is.  I’m going to own my mistakes and do better next month.  And the month after that and so on.

So while the net worth experiment appears to be going in the right direction, what looking at those numbers ended up telling me was that I need to get it into gear and work harder and try to get the more meaningful numbers up.

I’ll probably update again around the end of the year.  And I will do better.

Has your net worth went up or down in the last few months?

Cash, Credit, or Debit?

cash credit or debitA number of years ago, I discussed the cash or credit question on this blog. And I have to say, my opinion hasn’t changed much. But in the intervening years (I say that as if this is something I have been pondering since 2008), I realized that I missed something in the discussion – debit!

Let’s break it down very simply.  When you go to a store and pay for an item, you have three basic ways to pay for something: in cold hard cash, by swiping your credit card, or by swiping your debit card.

Cash, Credit, or Debit?

It’s pretty obvious how cash works.  You exchange it for the item you are purchasing. In a way, debit is similar.  To oversimplify, when you swipe your debit card, the money is taken out of your bank account and given to the merchant.  Credit is a little different.  You swipe your card and the credit card company pays the merchant.  By swiping your card, you are promising the credit card company that you will pay them back for the transaction.  If you do it within a certain period of time, the transaction is free (to you, anyway).  If you prefer to pay only part of the amount, the credit card company will charge you interest on that payment.  You’re essentially borrowing money from the credit card company that you have to pay back.

(As an aside, this explains how people get into trouble with credit cards.  With debit cards or cash, you can’t really spend more than you have.  With credit cards, you can spend up to your credit limit.  I don’t know about anyone else, but my credit limit on my cards is stupidly high.  I could get into a lot of financial trouble if I spent to my limit.)

So it sounds like credit cards are bad and I probably just use cash and debit, right?

Nope!  In fact, I rarely use either!

My Pick: Credit Cards for the Win

I am kind of afraid of debit cards.  I’ve had my credit card number compromised before, and it’s no big deal.  The credit card company takes care of any fraudulent charges, and they send me a new card with a new number.  Easy peasy.  But I have heard horror stories of debit cards being compromised.  I’m not talking about situations like the Target breach, where most people didn’t have money taken out of their account, but rather situations where someone gets their hands on your card info and withdraws money.  Sure, the bank will ultimately get you that money back if you catch it fast enough, but until all the paperwork is done, that money is simply gone!  That could cause real problems when it’s time to pay the mortgage and you don’t have the funds available.  Therefore, I pretty much never use my debit card.

I also rarely use cash.  Why?  Because it’s so much harder to track.  In a perfect world, I would track every single financial transaction I make the moment I make it.  I have an app on my phone that I can use, so it would be easy.  But in reality, I just don’t do it.  I never got into the habit.  So instead, once a week or so, I log into my credit card accounts and download all of my transactions.  It’s a really easy way to see where my money is going.  I joke that cash just tends to grow wings and disappear.  I can’t ever track back where it went.  Sure, sometimes cash is a necessity, and I’m always careful to have at least a little bit of money on my person, but my day to day transactions are all done on credit.

Of course, as I have discussed, this is doable for me because I pay the entire balance on my credit cards every month.  I’m not spending money I don’t have and I’m not racking up interest charges.  I’m also getting rewards points, which is a fun bonus.  But even without the rewards, I think credit would be the way to go for me.  It seems safer than debit and is easier to track than cash.

So in the debate, for me, the answer is always credit.  Which side do you fall on?