Friday, October 21, 2016

How I Got My Finances in Order Part 6: Tips And Tricks About The Budget

Where Have I Been?

After a long break (I checked and my last post in this series was on May 29th) we return to how I got my finances in order. So where have a been during this break? I have been working a lot. I spent most of the summer working two sometimes three jobs. I would say I have been busy all the time, but that would be a small lie. After coming home, I would rather sit down and play a video game or watch something on netflix.

So were do I currently stand on my quest to become debt free and financially responsible? I have been following my budget and controlling my spending. I am enjoying watching my debt drop every month. I am just around the corner from the finish line. I should be debt free early next week.

Tips About Setting/Adjusting The Budget

First, It's very important to understand that the budget is not sent down from on high like the ten commandments. Your budget is not an inviolate set of instructions. You will find that what you HAVE to spend money on will change several times during the life of any budget. The goal for the rest of your life, even if you become independently wealthy, is to have a budget. You will never not have a budget. That budget needs to change and adjust for your life.  Prices go up and down, maybe your commute becomes shorter, all these things need to be reflected in your changing budget. Just make sure that your budget always leaves some money to continue paying off that debt or investing.

One piece of advice you'll often hear about budgets is to never borrow from one budget category to pay another. So if you have budgeted two hundred dollars for groceries and say 100 for gas, then these amounts are set in stone.  If you have some unintended travel emergencies that use up your budget well just to bad. You won't be buying any gas from here on out so you can't go to work and get fired. Or woops, you ran out of grocery budget so know you starve and die. Obviously these examples are absurd. Ultimately you are working toward keeping your expenses below a certain amount.  So feel free to borrow from one category to pay for another.

It took me months to arrive at a budget I have been able to keep in the long term. At one point I had to add a hundred dollars  or so to the overall amount because I could not stay below the previous amount. No point in having a budget you can't stay within.

Tricks For Staying On Budget

People have come up with several tricks and programs to try and help you stay on your budget. I tried a few of them. Envelops full of cash remains a very popular method online. You may be shocked but you still can pay for pretty much everything with cash. Yes the cashier may start thinking you are a drug dealer :) You get a bunch of envelopes and write the various budget categories on them. Each month you get the total cash amount from the bank and put it in each envelope. When you have an expense you pull out that cash and buy the groceries or whatever. I had some problems with this system. Your envelopes are sitting at home but when you go out you just have a wad of cash you use for everything. You get some gas, then stop by the grocery store, and finally pick up some take out on the way home. You paid that out of the cash you had but how much now should be in each envelope?  Now you gotta pull out  the receipts and calculate how much should be in each category. And of course you don't have the right change. I tried it for about two months then moved one.

You can use one of those prepaid debit cards that you fill with the budgeted amount each month.  What I do is somewhat similar. I have another bank account with a debit card. Each month I transfer the budgeted amount from my main bank account to this account. I've connected the account to Mint so that it automatically deducts amounts from my budget categories. I also have an ATM just down the street if I need some cash.  I've used this system for almost two years now.  I find it amazing how much my spending is curtailed when I know I am using "real" money and not credit.

Probably the most advantageous way to spend you budget would be to use a credit card with big cash back bonuses. You have to make sure not to go over budget and pay it off each month. I don't remotely trust myself enough to not just start pilling up debt again so my credit cards are locked in a cash box.

Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is one of the most important things to have. This will keep you from falling back into debt with those unexpected expenses. Each spring I replenish my emergency fund with my tax return.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

No TWTW.. all I got is a few pictures

The retention ditch had a metric tonne of ducks in it
Full Moon through a tree.. spoooooooky
Local Maple Tree begins to turn

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

TWTW October 3rd through the 9th: I Run. My Ankle Hurts. I Run Again

Don't fear readers, all 30 of you. I don't see this becoming a fitness blog. I am old, chubby, and out of shape.

My actual old man foot

On Tuesday I went for my scheduled run. It was nothing long, fast, or spectacular. I am doing a modified version of the c25k program. Afterward I had some ankle pain. It got worse on Thursday so I didn't do my run that day thinking I would postpone until Friday. On Friday it was way worse. My foot would pop and crackle and hurt. There was't any swelling but something sure didn't feel right.   I started looking up foot anatomy online trying to figure out what tendon or whatever hurt. The image above of my actual foot shows the painful area in red. It wasn't the achilles tendon it was behind it or to the side. It still hurt on Saturday. I even iced it that night thinking that maybe something was inflamed. I've come to the conclusion that running didn't cause the problem, but the shoes I walked around in did. My right foot supinates rather badly. I wear my shoes down quickly on the outside. With this pair of walking shoes the heal actually broke in a little bit on the right side making my steps even worse. I think that constant twisting of the foot with each step is what caused the pain. I stuffed toilet paper into the right side of my shoe until it leveled out my footfall. That seemed to help a lot.

Sunday I didn't have much pain and I had a lot of energy, so I wanted to get in a run. I put on my heart rate monitor and all my stuff and went for a jog.  Right off the bat I knew my NEW heart rate monitor was having problems. Within twenty seconds of starting it warned me I had reached my max heart rate. I hadn't. It just wasn't working properly.  At one part of the run it just bounced all over the place. I would be at max, it would go down to 140 then down to 100 then back to max. At this point I realized the monitor was useless. I ignored it and decided to try and take stock of just how I felt. I felt good. I didn't feel winded or under a lot of stress. I decided to just keep going and going. According to runkeeper (one of the many and the oldest of the apps I use) claimed I managed my longest run ever.  Maybe I should ignore the HRM more often.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

TWTW September 26th through October 2nd I Go For Some Jogs

You might all want to sit down for this announcement.  I jogged three times this week. I actually kept to the schedule. I intend to do three workouts a week but it's really hard for me to get to the gym now that I try not to drive.  So I impressed myself with my three jogs.

Dream of the week

I was in my house and it was a really sunny day outside but windy.  Then the wind picked up until the gusts were stronger than any other wind ever.  I worried the house would blow over and then it did start to tumble along. I fell out of the house which was no longer a house. It was now the carcass of a large old analog tv with the tube taken out of it. I don't remember what happened next, but we ended up in a dungeon. We knew we had to get out so we could get to the tower and defeat the Wind Demon that was making all the wind.  We got out but most of the people just wanted to fix the castle. I checked on the gps and found out the Wind Demon tower was just a little bit away. Two people decided to come with me to the tower but they quickly left so I went on alone. I came around the corner and it was my grandparents place but there in the back was a big Gothic tower with a bunch of wind blowing around it. Two Minotaurs came out of the tower to fight me. Pulled out the remote for my Amazon fire stick which was also a light saber. Then there was a ferret. I took the ferret into my grandparents' place and tried to play with it in the back room. It kept biting me on the thumb so I got annoyed and decided we had to get out.  But the ferret kept hiding and I didn't want to leave it in there to bite my grandparents... then I woke up with Jobu poking me in the face. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Great Heart Rate Monitor Saga

I have been exercising regularly for a few months now. I switch between using the elliptical machine at the gym and running on the trail right outside my place. Once I hit 40 years old I became concerned about heart health. So now I monitor my heart rate with a chest strap when I run and use that as a metric to go by.  I set a target heart rate that is almost my max, or if I am working on a distance I watch my heart rate to know when to take things slower.

Things with my monitor started out fine. Then things went wonky. At first it would just have the occasional drop out or seem slow to adjust. It got worse as time went on. As soon as a would take off on a slight jog the monitor would instantly shoot up to over 170 bpm. The drop offs became way more common.  The monitor soon became totally useless and unreliable.  I took a screenshot of the results from one run below.

Either my HRM isn't working or I died several times

I have been trying not to spend money so I hoped to fix the problem without buying anything. The chest HRM consists of two parts. The strap itself that has the sensors that go against your skin and a pod that takes a battery and transmits the data, in my case to a GPS watch. I changed to a brand new battery.  Thing improved slightly but not for long. Next I cleaned off the strap but that didn't help. I tightened the strap. I loosened the strap. Nothing mattered.  I actually had another strap sitting around and so I tried that, but I still got the bad results.  At this time I decided the pod itself had gone bad. Luckily I had gotten an amazon gift and it covered the cost of  a new monitor. So far it works fine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

TWTW September 19th through the 25th: The Great Mosquito Assault

The Great Mosquito Assault

For several weeks now I have been having a mosquito problem in my apartment. But Wonky, how can you have a mosquito problem inside your apartment? Well you see I have a small fuzzy child. He likes to hang out on the balcony. Yes even at night. Since I don't have some sort of cat door and I can't close the door while he is out there because he would be perturbed. This means my balcony door stays open for like an hour each night. The mosquitoes take full advantage of this situation. One night a couple of weeks ago I killed eleven of the blood sucking monsters.  They have a particular liking for my feet and ankles. To counter that I have taken to wearing big socks pulled up as far as they can go on my feet. Each morning as part of my morning ritual I check to see how many new bites the legion of ziki have given me. Wednesday morning my left foot was extra itchy. I pulled off my sock and to my horror counted seven bites on the top of my foot. I can only assume that at some point during the night my foot came out from under the covers.  Also these socks have some sort of special cooling mesh on top and not normal sock material so I guess the west nile attackers had no trouble sensing my nummy flesh.

I Ground the Death Machine

I had been still driving the death machine ie car with the recalled but not yet fixed airbags. I decided to actually read what happens when the airbags fail:


You read that right. Shard of metal fly at your face.  The equivalent of a shotgun explodes in your face. After reading that I went down to the dealer and asked them for a loaner since I wasn't going to drive the car until they fixed it. The told me they didn't really do that. So I grounded the car. It sits out front of my apartment and won't move until they are going to fix it.

What's the point of having a Honda if you can't show it off?