Like a Budget

Budgeting is like dieting, 10 minutes into it and we say screw it “I look just fine.” or “Where’s the nachos?”.  Some of us will double down and stick to the budget because we know it’s the only way to get ahead or reach our goal. And some of us will create a budget and then blow it out of the water within a few days. Don’t give up. That’s my advice. I blow up my budget and diet plan in the same month. It sucks, but I know I gotta stick with it or I’m gonna be stuck financially and fit-sically (Leave me alone). 

My main purpose for budgeting is to pay off debts faster, and make sure money is allotted to my bills first before I buy anything else. The first article I wrote “What Are You Worth?” explored our net worth. If you haven’t read it, please click the link and check it out now. One of the important parts to figuring out your net worth is determining your debt. So I have a list of all my debts and an order to which one I want to pay off first. After I get my debts paid off, hopefully sooner than later, then I will use that money for savings and investing. Your reasons for budgeting might be different than mine. You might only have a little debt, but you spending most of your income and don’t know where it goes. Budgeting can help you figure out where that money goes, and then you can set a limit on that spending if you want. Or you might not have any debt and save a ton, and only spend what you need on food and bills. Instead of dipping into that savings, you can set a budget and allot money to the purchase of a new car or truck, or a vacation. There are many reasons why someone would choose to budget, after finding your reason, we need to get it set up.

How to Set Up a Budget

Get a piece of paper or if you prefer your excel spreadsheet and get ready to write. Here is where you can determine if you want to budget a month at a time or two weeks at a time. I think most of us get paid every two week, but there maybe some that still get paid monthly either way we can budget it. I get paid every two weeks so I budget for two weeks at a time. So write down your expected income for two weeks. Paycheck City baby…click the link if you need help calculating your hourly pay check. I wholly recommend only calculating for 80 hours. That’s 40 hours a week, which doesn’t include overtime and I’ll explain why in a minute why not to include overtime. I used $30 an hour, 80 hours a week, which is $2400 gross and $1882.48 net. The $1882.48 is the amount we use for our 2 week budget.

Bills 

Now that we have our income, let’s tally up our bills. This category is rent/mortgage, electricity, water/garbage, car payment, and cell phone…if you don’t pay and they come and take it away…then it goes in this category. For bills I included:

  • Internet/TV – $80
  • Cellphone – $75
  • Car Payment – $550
  • Utilities – $172
  • Auto Fuel – $120
  • Groceries – $262
  • Insurance – $100

That is a total of $1359. Most of these are monthly bills, and if you were to pay all these on your first paycheck of the month then you would have $523 until the next paycheck. Let’s continue on with our budget, and then we’ll decide how to use the left over money.

Debts

You could include a car payment in your debts, but I am using this spot for credit card debt. Most of us need a car to get to work and do other things, so I consider it a necessity. Credit card debt is the one that typically creeps up on us, and has an enormously high interest rate compared to even a 5% APR car loan. Your local credit union might be able to get you a 7.99% APR credit card, but a lot of us have an average credit card interest rate of 19%. I’m going to use that average American household credit card debt of $16061, and at 19% APR if you paid $260 a month it would take you 20 years to pay off. Over $45,000 in interest will be paid to the credit card company. Calculate for yourself here.  We have to debt and now we need to pay it off. Decide right now how quickly you want to pay it off. I’m going to go with 2 years or 24 months. A quick calculation shows that I will pay about 670 a month. Realistically, it will take 2.5 years due to interest. If we add $670 to the rest of our bills then our total will come to $2029. “But I haven’t even budgeted for dining out, entertainment, or savings!”

Real Life

Yup. We haven’t included the real life expenses. We all like a treat every now and then, whether that is just ice cream or a nice gourmet meal at celebrity chef’s new restaurant. Don’t worry, we’ll fit it in. Our total on our budget so far is $2029, but that is for our monthly bills, and we are on our first paycheck. So, let’s cut our $2029 in half–>$1014.5. This is how much you can allot to bills and debt with your first pay check. That leaves $867.98 for real life expenses until the next pay check. The reality check we has is that our monthly bills are spread throughout the month. So your Internet/TV bill might be on the 3rd of the month, while your utilities might not be due until the 23rd of the month. Your budget should allow you to be flexible with your bills. 

Semper Gumby

Semper-Gumby-Always-Flexible-Shirt-Back-Side-300x300Always flexible. It’s true. Gumby served in the military. So much so that the unofficial motto of every command is Semper Gumby. You don’t have to be green and glide around to be flexible, you just need to plan a head. Just a little. With your first paycheck allot money to the bills you need to pay before you get paid again. In this two week pay period, include the fuel and groceries you will need until your next pay check. 

We calculated that $1014.5 would cover half our bills for the month. In reality for this two week pay period it might be $900 or $1300, it just depends on how your bills fall within the month. Let’s say that for this two weeks our debt, bills, groceries, and fuel will be $1016. $1016 will cover our Internet/TV – $80, Cell phone – 75, Credit Card payment – $670, Fuel – $60, and Groceries – $131. That leaves us with $866.48 until our next paycheck. Now we can decide what to do with our extras.Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward

Not exactly the Haley Joel Osment movie, but you can use your extra money for that purpose if you want. One of the option of using your extra money from the first paycheck is to pay a bill ahead of time. You can either ear mark the money or go ahead and pay the bill if you want. The bills after the next paycheck will be the car payment – $550, Utilities – $172, Fuel – $60, Groceries – $131, and Insurance – $100. By paying or setting money aside for one of these now, you’ll have less money on the front end, but you’ll have a little more on the back end. It doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up the more you do it or the more money you pay forward. My goal, by doing this, is to get one month ahead on bills. That means that in February I could possible have money for my March bills set aside. This allows you to have piece of mind that you have enough money for your bills.

You forgot again…

What’d I forget? Oh, yeah. Savings and fun money. So if you haven’t paid any future bills yet, then we can take our $866.48 from this paycheck and put some in savings. Yes, put your money in savings, before you go blow it on the Xbox Series X. How much should you save? If you aren’t investing in anything including a work 401k plan, then IMHO you should save 20% of your net income. Feel free to choose gross income if you want to save more. 20% of our 2 week net income of $1882.48 is $376.5. As soon as you get paid, put $376.5 in your savings account. This leaves $489.98 to go out, wine and dine, or buy a few video games. 

Overtime

We finally come to all that overtime you were forced to work, or maybe you volunteered for it. If you used Paycheck City, then you can put in your overtime rate and hours to see how much you made in over time. You’ll have to calculate your exact amount in over time, but that’s pretty easy. We made $1882.48 net for two weeks. If we work 20 hours of overtime in that two weeks plus our regular 40 hours our net income will be $2515.63. Subtract those values $2515.63 and $1882.48, and our net overtime is $633.15. The best use of this money is to probably put money on the credit card debt, but you can also save the money, or put it toward future bills.

Goals

Your goals should help shape your budget. If you can’t even fathom what goals you need or should have, then by default you should save your money. At a minimum save 20% of your paycheck. One day it’ll click and you’ll realize what you need money for, and if you have been saving your money, then it’ll be there waiting for you. If you just hit that realization and don’t have the money, then now you know what you need to be doing. My wife and I had a recently had an epiphany when we decided we wanted to start a business. You need to have money saved, or less debt. At least less debt than what we had. Don’t let money be the road block to your goals. Setup that budget, stick to it, and reach those financial goals.

Please feel free to comment, ask a question, or contact me. Let me know if I left something out or if you have a good suggestion for budgeting. Thank you.

-The Cash-Strapped Dad

 

What are you worth?

It’s 2020, a new year, a new decade so let’s say we start right by getting our financial house in order.

The first thing we need to do is take stock of our financial health. Whether we think the results are good or back in our opinions the only way we can plot a course forward is to face the reality. For some of us our reality might be that we have positive net worth, and for others we might have a negative net worth.

What’s a net worth?

Simply put net worth is your assets minus your liabilities.

undefined

“So what are my assets and debt?” Assets are anything you own and are not paying, and liabilities are the opposite, these are things that you are paying for and you don’t own. A few examples of assets are cash in your bank account, a retirement account, or a vehicle you own. Liabilities are credit card debts, student loans, or a home mortgage. Your net worth is what would be left if you were to sell all your assets and pay off your liabilities. Now hopefully we are all like Rich Uncle Pennybags above and have handfuls of cash. There are many net worth calculators on the internet you can visit. They are easy to use and help to remind you of assets or liabilities that you many have forgotten. Investopedia is a great website for financial information and has a net worth calculator, however I like the one at Kiplinger because it already list typical assets and liabilities, where as the Investopedia calculator only has a few of each, and I couldn’t get it to calculate for me.

Dang! I’m broke…

Me too don’t worry… me too. That’s OK, because we are going to make a plan to pay off some of our debt. As an example, let’s take a look at an average American’s household debts.

Credit Cards-Ref 7, Mortgages -Ref 3, Auto Loan-Ref 6, Student Loans-Ref 5

So to break this down into bite size morsels, we are going to have to assume a few things. I’m going to assume we just bought a brand new house with a 30 year mortgage with insurance and taxes included, and we bought a used vehicle with a 48 month note, and our student loans is on a 30 year payment program. These values come from different articles about the median or average debt in the U.S. The next image will have our debts broken down into monthly payments.

Monthly Payments on Liabilities
Median Household Income in the United States

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

If we break down the U.S. Median income into monthly income, then every month we are receiving $4801. I am excluding taxes and interest for the sake of simplicity. Our total debt for the month is $2400. That leaves $2401 left over for the month. Realistically, we won’t be able to use the full $2401 unless you don’t need food or gas for the month. So courtesy of my trusty spreadsheet skills, I present a few option with paying off our credit card debt.

Just as sweet as my Nunchuck skills.

What is debt worth to you?

We’ve come face to face with our debts. We’ve calculated different options on how long it will take to pay off our debts. Now we have to choose how quickly we want to pay off the debt. I excluded interest rates earlier to make our calculations easier, but now we have to consider the interest rate. If we assume you got a great credit rate at 7.49% APR, then the one month interest for you will be $42.75. It doesn’t look like much, but let’s look at what happens if you just pay the minimum amount of $110.

debt-pay-1
https://www.creditkarma.com/calculators/debtrepayment
debt-pay-2
Interest added 18 months more for the same minimum payment.

Interest is a powerful tool depending on who is wielding it, and in the case of credit cards we aren’t wielding jack! Don’t worry. Let’s take a look and see what happens if we pay more than the minimum balance.

debt-pay-4

By paying $33 more than the minimum payment, we would bring our expected payoff time back down to 58 months instead of 80. If we were able to pay $600 a month with interest, then we would have the debt paid off in 12 months. The quicker we can get this debt paid off, then the quicker we can increase our net worth.

Just the beginning…

Taking a look at our entire financial picture is one of the first steps in determining where we are financially, where we want to be financially, and how we get there. As a bit of confirmation as I was writing this blog post (it was over a course of a few days), I checked the mail with my little boy and I received a letter from Personal Capital. At the top of the letter it says, “Let’s be honest, do you know how much money you really have?” I have a Personal Capital account, but I haven’t used it in a long time. I plan to log in and track my net worth, and see what else they have to offer. To me the letter signifies that people who come to Personal Capital haven’t taken a broad look at their financial picture, and don’t know if they are close to their financial goals. This particular piece of mail was about retirement, and we will talk about my borderline obsession with retirement in a later article.

It’s important to track your retirement, savings, and other financial goals just like you track your bills. Even if you have all your bills and savings automated, you still need to keep an eye on your accounts to make sure your money is going to the right place.

Let’s get our net worth figured out, and see if we can do better this year with debt pay off and savings. Leave a comment and let me know how you track your net worth, and keep up with your financial goals. Cheers to 2020!

 

 

References

1. Net Worth Calculator | Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/net-worth/demo/.

2. Net Worth Calculator: How to Calculate Net Worth. http://www.kiplinger.com/tool/saving/T063-S001-net-worth-calculator-how-to-calculate-net-worth/index.php.

3. Median Sales Price of Houses Sold for the United States. 4 Sept. 2019, https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MSPUS.

4. Bureau, U. C. Median Household Income in the United States. 14 Sept. 2017, https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/2017/comm/income-map.html.

5. College, N. Average Student Loan Debt in the U.S. – 2020 Statistics | Nitro. https://www.nitrocollege.com/research/average-student-loan-debt.

6. Jones, J. Average Car Loan Debt Statistics 2020 | LendingTree. 8 Jan. 2020, https://www.lendingtree.com/auto/debt-statistics/.

7. El Issa, E. NerdWallet’s 2019 Household Debt Study. 2 Dec. 2019, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/.

The Cash-Strapped Dad

My name is Cody Martin. I am a husband, a father, an avid financial information consumer, and… The Cash-Strapped Dad.The idiom “strapped for cash” originates from the mid-1800s and means “in need of money.”

While I strive not to be “strapped for cash,” the reality is that between the bills, kids, and my wife (yep, I said it), sometimes I end up wishing I had a money tree growing in my back yard.My goal is to never be strapped for cash, and on my way to reaching this goal, I want to pass along any valuable information (in my opinion) that I gain so that you will never be strapped for cash either. I am in no way a financial consultant, and this blog is for entertainment and informational purposes only. So… here we go! Technically, my financial journey started in high school when my parents told me I needed a checking account so that I could deposit money from my grocery store job and learn how to keep a check book. It wasn’t until I joined the Navy that I became more interested in money and finances. I can only count on one hand the instances when someone specifically told me, “Do this with your money.”

Instance #1: I was in “A” School in Charleston, South Carolina, which is where I learned how to be an Electrician’s Mate. When you first arrive to the school, you begin a 1-2 week indoctrination period or Indoc for short. Indoc was to help familiarize you with the area, how schooling worked, and to take care of paperwork that will follow you the rest of your Navy career. One of the hundreds (that’s what it seemed like) of pieces of paper you sign and date was for a Treasury bond. There are many different denominations of Treasury bonds (aka T-bonds) you can buy, and you can have money taken directly from your paycheck to buy a bond. Our instructor told us that he bought a bond every few months, and that by the time he left the Navy, he would have several thousands of dollars in his T-bonds. I decided that this was a fantastic idea and signed up to buy one $1,000 T-bond every 8 months; a total of $125 came out of my paycheck every month.

Instance #2: I had arrived to my first submarine and duty station in Groton, CT and was living on base in the barracks. Fellow shipmates had suggested that I buy a house and start building up equity, to quit throwing my money away. I didn’t understand what they were talking about. It didn’t make sense that I was “throwing away money” that I wasn’t even receiving. Here’s the deal, in the Navy and most military branches, if you live on base or in the barracks you don’t have to pay rent. If you decided to live off base, then the Navy would give you BHA, basic housing allowance. Depending on how you look at it, the Navy is basically paying you to live off base. What my fellow sailors were trying to tell me is that if I live off base and find a house payment that is lower than what the Navy gives me in BHA, then that is extra money in my pocket. For example, rent in an apartment is $700 per month, and the Navy pays me $1000 per month for housing. That’s $300 extra in my pocket that I wouldn’t have if I continued to live on base!

Like I said, I didn’t understand that or the concept of equity when you purchase and own a home over time. It was over my head and a risk I didn’t want to take. The submarine I was on was planning on changing home port, and I didn’t want to have to deal with selling a house or renting it out while I was also trying to take in how Navy sub life worked. After our change of home port, a lot of guys started buying houses, and I ended up renting from one of the guys who bought a house. Him, one other dude, and myself lived in the house, which got that extra money in my pocket. At this point, I still didn’t know anything about home ownership, and it really didn’t even pique my interest enough to look into it.

Between talking to my parents and other guys on the boat about stocks and retirement I decided to further my own knowledge about investing. I purchased a few books: Investing Bible by Lynn O’Shaughnessy, a book about Warren Buffet, and The ABC’s of Real Estate Investing by Ken McElroy. I said earlier that I wasn’t interested in home ownership, but a close friend and I planned to possible purchase a rental house together when I got to my new home port. That didn’t work out. I also read many blogs and websites about money. I knew one day I would retire and I didn’t want to rely on Social Security, because I always heard “it’ll be gone in 10 years.” I still believe that right now. Whether it is here in 10 years or not, I don’t want to rely on Social Security to fund my retirement lifestyle. I want to be in control of my finances.

That statement brings me to why I started a blog. There are many different philosophies on money and spending. I want to explore and share with people the good and bad philosophies, and how we can change our habits and perceptions about money. I want to combat consumer debt and student loans. College students currently carry $1.7 Trillion dollars in student loans. Americans collectively hold $882 Billion in credit card debt. There is a mounting financial crisis, and I want to help fight against it.  I believe educating our children and youth is the only way to fight against the current trend of accumulating debt.

I am not a professional money manager or CPA or certified financial planner. I am an Instrumentation and Electrical Technician in Houston, Texas. I have a normal average (above average!) American family whose debt and income fluctuate. I invest with my 401k at work. I dabble with my Fidelity account. I pay my credit cards, and car notes. Financial independence is my goal. I want it to be your goal too. I want it to be your kid’s goal.  The sooner we learn and can put into use our knowledge of money, debt, and investing then the sooner we can reap the rewards.

I want you to come here with me and take a journey to financial independence. I want to create a community here where we can talk about things that have worked in our lives to manage money and pay off our debts. I want to be able to share ideas about how you engaged your kids about money or the struggle you face talking to them about it, or even your significant other.

As this blog builds up, I want to review popular financial books for you, I want to review apps to help you on your financial journey, and I eventually want to interview people that have turned their financial life around or have great advice to pass on. My goal is to start posting once a week on the financial basics and keep building our financial knowledge. Thank you for clicking and reading my burgeoning financial blog. Together with your help we can educate ourselves and our kids on how to properly manage our money.