Well, I’ve maxed out my 403(b) contributions sooner than expected, and I’m on a path to max out my IRA annually as well. I’m hoping to get my husband’s 401(k) and/or IRA set up soon, but he’s not much of a saver, so he needs some extra nudging. I suppose I’m saving enough for us both, but I’d feel better if some of it were in his name (he is, of course, the beneficiary). I’ve also increased our mortgage payments.
Doing all of the above has changed our budget somewhat, but as far as individual monthly spending money, nothing has changed at all. We still have the same allowances, except I have voluntarily lowered mine by contributing monthly to Save the Children* from it.
My next step is to invest more in my individual stock account. To do that, I needed to identify my spending weaknesses and obliterate them. I also needed to decide what I could spend on. Here’s what I’ve got:
What I Can Spend On:
- Up to two theater or live music tickets/month (about $50/month for the cheap seats with the teacher discounts I get)
- Soil for gardens
- Seeds for gardens
- Garden tower/vermicomposter
- Workout shoes (mine are just about dead, and I barely walk!)
- Materials to learn to sew (just thread and fabric — I already have everything else thanks to generous gifts from my mom and grandmother) + cost of community classes
- Bicycle repair or recumbent bike if I can’t handle a regular bike
- Garden bench/kneeler and/or chair so I can get around in the garden more easily and with less pain
Purchasing Not Allowed:
- Books (I’m a library addict; why do I still buy books?)
- Music (this one is going to be hard, but the library should still be able to come to the rescue, especially for jazz and classical)
- Stationery (I’ve given away a small store’s worth of stationery in the past month and I still have plenty)
- Ink (though I can replace ink when I run out)
- Theater concessions (at live theaters or movie theaters)
- Eating out more than once a month
- Tickets to more than two live shows/month
- Any food waste at the end of the week must be tallied and deducted from the following week’s food budget. I’ve been better about food waste since I posted about it; in fact, I’ve had zero. I want to keep that going.
- If I accidentally purchase something through Amazon without making it Amazon Smile (I have it set up to donate to a local charity), then I must donate 5% of the total of that purchase to said charity.
- If I purchase anything on the “not allowed” list, I must either
- donate an equal amount to a deserving charity
- subtract the cost from my weekly food budget
If I follow this plan, I will quite comfortable save $240/month. Seriously. I was spending a ton, largely on my students, but now that we have Chromebooks at school, I don’t have to buy them computers anymore. Yay! Plus, after cleaning my garage, I’ve found a surplus of school supplies, so there won’t be any need for purchasing 3-ring binders, backpacks, notebook paper, etc., for quite some time. Since I was already saving $200/month, that’s a total of $440/month. My other big spending category this past year has been clothes; I decided to look semi-professional this year. Now those clothes are purchased, though, and I can just keep wearing them until they wear out and replace on a one-out/one-in basis. I expect nothing will wear out in the next year. I’m also saving on fuel costs since the electricity cost to charge my electric car is a pittance compared to the cost of gas, but I was only spending $20/month on gas anyway.
I’ll invest half of that $440 and save the other half for vacation costs. Whatever I don’t use for travel by the end of the summer, I’ll invest.
I’ve always liked setting up rules like these for myself, and I generally adhere to them. I think it comes from Lent having been my favorite season growing up. There’s something absolutely freeing about self-denial, as paradoxical as that may be.
* By the way, I’m reading a book called Switch by Chip Heath that has a case study about Save the Children. It made me absolutely happy to have chosen that charity as one of the ones I’m regularly donating to.