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  • Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of August

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which was to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, and as of last month, we had saved 49% of our goal for the year. But since we are losing my income (which is actually a good thing!), this will be the last update in this series. As of the end of August, we are at 58% of our goal.

    I knew my goal was ambitious to begin with, so I’m satisfied with what we’ve achieved thus far. And by the time all is said and done, my cashed-out vacation time should get us fairly close to our total goal.

    Although we won’t be able to save as much, I do intend to save a smaller amount each month, and our savings should still continue to grow. It’ll just be at a much slower pace.

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of July

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, and I’m happy to report that we’ve now saved 49% of our total goal for the year. While we’re still short of reaching our goal, I continue to be pleased, because we’ve consistently saved more than the minimum I’ve budgeted for each month.

    As always, the key to our success has been continuing to do the things I’ve written about before, like paying ourselves first, snowflaking extra income, and spending wisely.

    Theresa asked me to write about budgeting, and specifically, how we budget without accounting for every penny and yet manage to save extra. So I’ll have a post on that soon.

    I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to curb spending even more in the coming months (the switch from preschool to public school should help), so that just maybe we’ll be able to still achieve our goal by the end of the year.

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of June

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, but I’ve been remiss and I totally skipped last month’s. This month is almost over, but I do have an update for the end of June so I figured I’d better get it posted. In the last two months, we’ve saved 12.5%, which puts us at 42% of our total goal this year. That’s a little short of the 50% of the year that’s passed, but I’m still quite pleased, because we’ve consistently saved more than the minimum I’ve budgeted for each month.

    The key to our success has been continuing to do the things I’ve written about before. Some things, like paying ourselves first, are on autopilot. Other things, like snowflaking extra income, are habits.

    One thing that kind of amazes me is that our budget works. Even though I know it should, theoretically, I’m still a little surprised that it works in practice. We’ve been quite lucky, in that we’ve been able to avoid large unexpected expenses. For instance, when my small, frequently used oven died, I decided to make do with my toaster oven and large bottom oven instead of buying a new one. (It’s still working out for me – I use the big oven once or twice a week, and my toaster oven three or four times a week.)

    I’m pretty sure we won’t reach our goal by the end of the year, but I know that we’ll get closer by aiming high than by setting our sights too low.

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of April

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, and I’m happy to report that we saved 9% of our goal last month, and have now saved over 29% of our total goal. We’re actually a little bit behind, because 33% of the year has gone by – but I’m pleased to be so close to that mark, considering how much of a stretch our goal actually is.

    How we did it:

  • As always, the biggest part of our savings came from paying ourselves first. The consistency of this monthly savings is the single biggest factor in our success.
  • We put our tax refund into savings. I do everything I can think of to reduce our tax liability, including participating in my employer’s flexible spending account and making tax-deductible charitable donations. This year, we had to pay extra tax to the state but got back about twice that from the feds, so the difference went into savings. It can be tempting to spend unexpected money like refunds, but I find that they’re an easy way to boost savings if you can resist the temptation
  • We snowflaked extra income into savings. This includes money I earned through Swag Bucks (when they had their PayPal sale), MySurvey, and Instant Cash Sweepstakes.
  • Also, I’ve adjusted the way I manage our money a bit so it’s easier to keep track of our spending and saving. I’ll write more about that in an upcoming post as part of the Ways to Make & Save Money series.
  • Looking ahead, my blog income tends to dip in the summer, so if you could spread the word about CFO to your friends and help me grow the blog, I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of March

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, so here it is: we’ve saved 20.3% of our goal so far.

    I’m pretty pleased with our progress – I knew starting out that this goal is a tremendous stretch, so to be at 20% with 25% of the year gone is satisfactory to me.

    The good news is that I’ve been doing fine with my big oven, so there’s no imminent need for a new oven – something I was afraid of last month. The bad news is that we’ve got some pretty substantial and un-budgeted-for expenses coming up, so I’m mentally preparing myself that our savings total won’t grow as much as it has been.

    As always, I continue to do the things I recommend in my Ways to Make & Save Money series. Also, I can’t believe how little we spend compared to how much we used to spend before kids. It’s been a while since I tracked our spending this closely, and it’s wonderful to see the difference.

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of February

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, so here it is: we’ve saved 13.9% of our goal so far.

    Last month, that number stood at 3% and I was rather disappointed. However, in calculating this month’s numbers, I realized that I was off, and that we actually saved just over 5% last month. Since I was quite disappointed last month, it was nice, albeit also embarrassing, to spot that error this month.

    One thing I did this month was reduce the extra principal we put towards our mortgage and redirect that money into savings, which added another 2% of our savings goal. California’s economic situation is so dire right now that hoarding cash and building up savings seems much more important than paying off the mortgage faster – even though that is something I would very much like to do. We plan on sticking with this new plan indefinitely.

    Just like last month, we did many things to help us get closer to our savings goal. I really do all of the things I recommend in my Ways to Make & Save Money series, and I’ve been tweaking some of those things to better suit our savings style, like snowflaking extra money into the savings account by depositing rebate checks into an account that’s not at the bank where we keep most of our money. Since that means the snowflaked money gets nowhere near the checking account, it stays in savings permanently.

    Another thing I’ve been doing is taking a closer look at our spending, and especially at what I spend on groceries and household items (there isn’t much wiggle room left in our budget!). Our spending on food is higher than most families in part because I buy organic milk, organic/antibiotic and hormone-free meat, RBST-free cheese and yogurt, and organic produce. These items are not cheap – a gallon of organic milk is $5.49 on sale, and I usually need 2 gallons a week, plus another 1/2 gallon at $3.29-$3.49 to leave at the .boys’ preschool. I’m not obsessive about organic products, but we can afford them and I don’t see any reason to put extra chemicals in my boys’ bodies if I don’t have to.

    However, I’m now working harder than ever to keep my grocery and household spending down. I’m chasing more deals at the drugstores and grocery stores. I’m making more trips to different stores, and thinking harder about where my money is going. My price book has more entries than ever before, and my target prices keep going down. My goal is to get my monthly spending down while still getting these high quality foods for my family, by buying them on sale and stockpiling when possible.

    One thing I’m worried about now is that we may need to buy a new oven, since my small oven died last month. We’re getting along for the moment with the big oven and toaster oven, but the big oven emitted a funny smell the last time I used it and we’re hoping that it was just because it hasn’t been much. (While I greatly appreciate all of the part-finding suggestions, we’ve concluded that we don’t have the skills or confidence to do our own repair, so the cost of the labor wouldn’t be worth fixing the oven.) I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we won’t have to spend $1000 or (likely) more on the kitchen anytime soon.

    Because I’m hoping that our progress in March will be as good as our progress in February!