I shan’t sport with your intelligence, dear reader, and make comment about “the State of the Economy”, rather, this post is about what I do to save my money and the few very specific things that I choose to spend it on.
I have never liked maths. In fact, I used to get into trouble in my 6th grade maths class because I was reading behind my textbook. Considering the depths that I use advanced math studies today, I don’t think that I was wasting my time then. This said, I am a BIG budget-er. I have a spreadsheet in Excel and keep track of everything. Every penny made and exactly how it was spent or when it went from my bank account. As far as savings goes, right off the top, I send $200 a month to two different savings accounts. One is for my “Rainy Day” fund and the other is my “Wishes were horses…” fund. I THEN have the money to spend other places. Its an automatic $400 less than what I make and without seeing it, I never know its missing. My Rainy Day fund, I am proud to say, has never been touched in my entire adult life. Since I started earning my own way, there has been gradual increases to the percentage that I deposit there. For every pay increase, the increased amount goes in there. This is, of course, after I figure my new budget after moving to the new place. Add to the the change in what I has ‘said’ I spent compared to what I actually did. I round up all purchases that I make when I note them in my bank book to the closest even number. At the end of each month I put the difference between what I think I have and what I DO have and put the change in my savings. Its kind of like the “Keep the Change” program that Bank of America has and if there was a B of A branch here in AK, I would have joined! Its simple and makes it easy to balance my check book every month too 🙂
About the budgeting…After about a month living in a new home, I feel like I can securely dictate to myself what it is that I can save versus what I can spend in any given month. I hear you saying now, “You live in the middle of nowhere! What is there for you to spend your money on?” You forget the simple thing that I DO live in the middle of nowhere and that getting something as simple as a dozen eggs requires a phone call to a grocery store, handeling charges to get it to the airport, freight charges to the plane service AND the nominal cost of those eggs. Those $2.50 eggs just cost me $6.25 and lets not even get into the cost of frozen foods to the tune of $2.75/lb.
If I want to buy groceries in any sane manner I need to order them to be delivered to Seattle and then brought up on a barge (which requires at least 3 weeks lead and planning time) or buy them myself when I am in Anchorage and have them mailed parcel post (which Cosco will gladly do for a 10% fee on top of the postage). This means that not only do I have to know what I like to eat but also what I will want in the next 6 months, have a place to put it all, and all this without mentioning the simple fact that buying 6 months plus of groceries at a time is a heck of a lot of money to plunk down all at once. Its like someone taking you to the store and saying, buy all you can now, you wont get another chance. You have to reform your thinking around that 6 month span and get away from thinking that you can come back if you forget. The penny pinchers amongst us pale at the thought of a $0.52 egg and learn to like powdered…both milk and eggs. Luckily, Fred Meyer has a bush shipping department which isnt bad at all. They charge their normal, Anchorage prices plus 10% handling and shipping. They are smart packers and nothing that I have bought so far has leaked, scratched or even had a crushed corner. *touch wood for me now please, I have some boxes in the mail now and I know how parcel post boxes are treated!* This said, its far from optimal. I know that when I pass thru Anchorage in August that I will be heading to Costco, will be becoming a member and making a large purchase of many staples.
Rent, electricity and fuel oil are all necessities. Rent is a given and you have to go with the rental market available. Electricity and Fuel Oil are the same but here, I have to think about them quite a bit differently than my more urban counterparts. Electricity is $0.75/kW hr. Yes, you read that right. The only things that stay plugged in in my house are the computer (to the surge protector which gets switched off when I go to work and bed), the fridge and stove and the washer and dryer. Everything else gets pulled to avoid the phantom draw. Fuel Oil is another biggie. At $5.50/gal and -40 weather, things can get expensive. Heck, at 62* it can still get expensive! This is why the house stays at 65* when I am out at work and 68* when I come home. The inspector who was here a few weeks ago commented that he would have the furnace looked at for me because it was obviously not working. When I told him that I set it low on purpose to save oil while I was at work, he looked at me like I was crazy. The tone in his voice when he asked “Why?” was quite incredulous. I simply explained that with no one in the house from 9-4 and considering the fur coat the dog wears, I didnt think it made sense to keep the house at 70. I still read my insanity on his face but decided to just ignore it after that. I mean really, why the heck does Sisu need the heat on to 70*? She likes to play outside when its -40 so I am not concerned for her at 65*!!
Entertainment is a big thing for me out here, especially since I am in charge of my own. I subscribe to Netflix, have a 8oz membership to the Spunky Eclectic fiber club, have internet at the house and have a Platinum membership to Audible. Add to this my new “library” budget of $30 so I can buy new books for my Kindle and I am entertained forever. Yes, the best things in life ARE free but it always adds icing to the cake if you can enjoy those things with a little extra. I love my walks on the beach and listening to the ocean is great but it is nice too to hear someone elses voice whether or not its a podcast or an audio book. And watching a movie while I spin or knit in the evenings is a pleasure that none would deny. I’m almost too far out for a radio, only 1 AM station here and since Sisu rarely keeps up her end of the conversation, my indulgences are mainly human voice focused. I have a yarn budget in there too but that is a entity in and of itself, even though it does keep me quite entertained!
“Wishes were horses…” fund gets used for those big things that I have been planning and thinking about for ages. My DSLR and my Ladybug spinning wheel came from this budget and just a few days ago, so did the Kindle. There will be a Kindle post coming quickly but for right now, I need to go play with it!