Is it easier to save?

Whenever I have needed to save money, like large sums of money, it has always been something that has been fairly easy for me. Many years ago I had two months to save $2,000 for a vacation with my grandma. I did that and then some, no problem. When I needed to save money to move to Kansas City, no problem saving up the money in a few months. Saving seems to be the easy part for me.

Even now, just a few days after my husband and I decided that we needed a hefty savings fund to pay for his lawyer and medical bills that we know are coming down the pipeline. ONE WEEK ago and already our savings account is at $3,929. (And Mr Woodpecker has another $1,500 check that is a wedding gift in his wallet that we need to cash – so there is easily our $5,000 goal and then some.)

What baffles me the most about all of this is how can I so easily save  money on one hand – and then be terrible at paying debt off on the other. Surely paying off debt is no different than saving money. It can’t be “compounding interest working in my favor” on these savings accounts. I’m looking at ONE WEEK at a 0.9% annual interest.

Perhaps it is just that I’m more encouraged by the total going up than a total going down?

Perhaps the immediacy of knowing that we WILL need this money? Paying debt is “saving” for purchases I’ve already made and purchases in the future that I haven’t yet planned. Saving right now has a very specific  goal: Keeping us from being crushed by medical bills in the next few months.

Instead of trying to analyze why saving money seems to have such a simple nature to it and paying off debt so difficult, maybe I should just say “interest be damned” and just save money until I get a pot big enough to pay off each debt in full. I’d still be paying minimums, of course, but perhaps if I can easily come up with $3-5,000 at a time using savings as a goal that I can just then transfer these amounts in huge chunks to my debt rather than just paying off the debt little amounts at a time.

Who knows… perhaps I’m not better at saving than I am at paying off debt. Maybe it is just easier to see because it grows, and debt just gets little chiseling and then BOOM monthly charges that work is gone.

Either way, I’m happy to report that our savings is growing. Our debt is remaining steady. And hopefully we’ll have enough saved to pay the onslaught of medical bills we know is coming.

One more week!

In 7 days I’ll become “Mrs. Woodpecker”.

Kind of a crazy thought. There has been so  much going on here that really it is impossible to list it all but here are a few highlights:

1. We’re going on a cruise for our honeymoon. Turns out that last minute cruise deals are pretty dang inexpensive. Flights? Not so much, but it wasn’t too bad. All in all we are getting a 4-day cruise with an oceanview room (non-obstructive) plus airfare for two for about $2,000. Add in a little bit for airport to cruise port transfers and 3 days of excursions and we’ll probably add to that a little.

2. We’re going on a roadtrip. My cousin is graduating from high school in Salt Lake City on June 6th. Her brother is getting married in Salt Lake City on June 15th. So we’re flying out there, renting a car, and in between the two events taking a camping road trip through Utah. We’re visiting Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, Bryce National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. Very excited about this, should be a ton of fun.

3. I had to buy a new laptop. My home computer had been a brick for about a year. And my work computer was out of commission for a week. I still had to…yanno… work. So I ended up buying a new computer. It cost me around $550 for the thing, as I got an older Windows 7 model (all of my work stuff requires Windows 7 and I’m loathe to make the switch to Windows 8 until I absolutely have to). I’ve also decided that “the cloud” is the most amazing thing ever if you have to switch computers. It used to be when you got a new computer it felt like you were starting your life over. This time I just downloaded Dropbox and Chrome and my files were all in place and so were my browser bookmarks. I was up and working within 30 minutes of pulling the computer out of the box. Wam bam, thank you, ma’am!

4. I got a new job. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my old job. Except… I hated that I wasn’t getting paid nearly enough, and I haven’t had retirement benefits in the past 2 years. Oh yeah, and I have to do things that we really should have a lab tech to do (order chemicals, prep labs, maintain MSDS sheets, etc). So another college just 3 miles away (and much larger) had a position opened and I applied. I had a phone interview, was called back for an on-campus interview, and voila! they offered me the position. My 9 month contract with the new school is the same pay as my 11 month contract with the old school. Which means my per-month salary will be higher. In addition new school has lab assistants that prep the labs and take care of all of that so I don’t have to. In addition they give me a 7% retirement (I’m required a match, of course). The school is larger, so I’ll have more colleagues which I’m really looking forward to. Having only 1 other chemist it has been difficult to “talk shop”. I like bouncing ideas off of a variety of people so I think it will work well. Oh yes, all of this and my teaching load will be LESS per semester. There will be some drawbacks, like I’ll miss the small community of the old school, I’ll miss the relationships I’ve build with students and colleagues there, and I’ll miss having a lot of autonomy in how my classes are run since I’m the only one teaching them. Overall though I think this transition will be better for me in the long run. While I’m certain I will make this transition, I have not signed a contract yet at the new school (they don’t issue until May), so I won’t be alerting my current school to my plans until our renewal contracts come in or I sign at the new school, which ever happens first.

Paying the Stupid Tax

When you’re young and “in love” you do really stupid things. Remember Mr Hive? Surely you do. He was the unmotivated, un-applied fellow I dated a few years ago. (Wow – has it really been that long?)

I mention in this post about how his car was dead and how I was tempted to co-sign for him on a new car. To quote me:

I’m so tempted to volunteer to co-sign for him (I’ve done this for other BFs in the past with no issue), but I know that we shouldn’t get so financially involved so soon. But at the same time, as we go forward in our relationship I also know that him having the lowest interest rate possible will be the best thing for us financially. He thanked me for having his best interest at heart when we went to a dealership last night. And of course my response was, “You’re welcome, but it also benefits me as well as we move forward in our relationship.”

You know where this is going right? RIGHT?

Yeah, one of those things that I decided NOT to mention on my blog because I was completely ashamed of it was that I did in fact decide to co-sign for him. Not only that but he chose a BRAND NEW car as the car he purchased.

Well, not more than a few months after that transaction happened (6 to be exact), I broke up with Mr Hive.

Since then it has been a complete battle. I have emailed him repeatedly to ask him to confirm that he is making his payments. The car loan, of course, shows up on my credit sheet as if it were mine.

He hasn’t missed a payment since we broke up, but having absolutely no control over when he pays, if he pays, or even knowing if that month he will be late has taken a huge hit on my sanity. Some nights I lay awake wondering what I will do about it.

(In the worst of these moments I imagine myself going in to his apartment [he lives with my future brother-in-law as luck may have it], taking his spare key, taking the car and selling it since I’m on the title. Mr Woodpecker and I still have this reserved as a back up plan.) 😉

As Mr Woodpecker and I move closer to beginning our lives together, I want this whole ordeal with the car and Mr Hive to be over. Once and for all. So I emailed him again and encouraged him to refinance the car.

During this time, Mr Woodpecker and I have had some serious conversations about what is peace of mind worth to us. We finally came to the realization that peace of mind is worth a whole lot. We decided that if Mr Hive didn’t take any action to refinance the loan we were willing to pay him to do so. We decided that if he did not do anything, we would sit down with him and  propose that if he refinances or trades-in his car and subsequently shows proof that the old lien is paid off, that we would help pay for the down payment on the new car or pay for the difference in value between the old loan and the refinancing. We decided that it was worth to us up to at least $2,000.  That’s right, we decided we would give my ex-boyfriend up to $2,000 to get the **** out of our lives for good.

Thankfully it looks like this reminder has given him enough motivation to actually do something about the loan. He has apparently applied for refinancing at a local bank, hopefully that will get approved. And we won’t have to pay anything for it.

I wish, truly wish, that someone had sat me down when I was thinking of doing this and told me how dumb of an idea co-signing was.

I felt like I was doing my then bf a huge favor (which I was). I felt like we were going to move forward together (which we didn’t). I didn’t think that he would turn out to be as much of a liability to my future happiness and security (which he beyond a doubt is).

There were even days that I have thought “why don’t I just pay the car off for him so I don’t have to worry about this anymore.” And if the loan had been less than $10,000 it may have happened.

So listen… please, please listen. Don’t co-sign for a loan for someone. Just don’t. I know it feels like you should because they need you. There is a reason the bank won’t finance them. A really good reason. And you don’t want to have 5 years of financing hanging over your head after you cut ties in a relationship.

I’m paying the stupid tax, but at least I’ve learned my lesson!

This is what happens when you don’t plan.

When Mr Woodpecker and I first got engaged we discussed the plans for the wedding. He wanted to get married after we got out of debt (should happen in around 4 months from now). I am totally on board with this plan.

I then brought up how we will save for the wedding expenses. Mr Woodpecker thought pretty strongly that we shouldn’t pay anything for the wedding expenses or save anything for the wedding until after we are out of debt.

While logical in a boy, single minded focus kind of way, it really isn’t practical.

For instance, we are leaving for 2 days next week to go to Vegas, look at venues, and take our engagement photos. All wedding related expenses. And little of it we have the money for since we didn’t start saving anything when we first got engaged.

We ended up paying for the airfare and hotel with money in our checking accounts, but for the engagement photos I had to secure the photographer – which meant a 50% deposit. Which meant money I didn’t have. So where did I turn? The trusty credit card. Money now, pay later.

This lead of course to me shopping for a dress for the engagement pictures – which led to me shopping for a dress for the wedding – which led to me finding the perfect dress. Which led to another $580 on the credit card. So BOOM – almost $800 of progress on the debt destroyed in a matter of a few days.

Then Mr Woodpecker had an emergency expense of $750 that had to be paid the very next day. We used his emergency fund for this. And now I’m just…grrr… angry and annoyed at how easily I slip back in to habits.

But it reminded me very clearly that if there is something that I know I’m going to spend money on THAT’S OKAY. I just need to PLAN for it.

So Mr Woodpecker and I sat down today and discussed it and I told him there was no way I won’t be able to spend money on the wedding until just the month or two before the wedding. That I was going to need to put down deposits and buy invitations and all of that stuff. So I can’t just have no budget. We need to set aside money now, each month, to pay for wedding stuff or I’m going to keep using the card.

He finally saw my point of view on it and we’re going to build our budget for the 15th assuming some money towards the wedding. Initially I’ll probably just use the majority of it to pay off the money I’ve already spent, but I do know that Save the Date cards will be the next big ticket item and perhaps even a down payment on a venue next week.

The wedding stuff is already stressful for me. I don’t like making decisions and feel like I constantly have to. Every day eloping just sounds better and better. Except I really, really, really want a party with all my family and his family together. So might as well make that the wedding, right?

Insane 6 Months: Six Weeks Down!

Mr Woodpecker and I are working really hard to get all of the credit card debt paid off in 6 months. We’re now through 6 weeks and we’ve done an amazing job so far. In 6 weeks we’ve paid off $4087 in credit card debt!

It feels so good to pay it off! Here are the nuts and bolts of how we’re paying this debt off:

  • Living on my salary and putting his salary to debt payment.
  • I picked up two part time jobs: tutoring for $40/hr for 2-4 hours per week and working ~20 hrs/week at Kohls.
  • Mr Woodpecker has picked up my responsibilities at home while I work more.
  • Trimming the fat on our budget for things that aren’t necessities.
  • Sticking to our budget!
  • Talking regularly and openly about our budget and what we spend on things.

The stuff above is actually the easy part. The hard part I’ve found in the past is motivation. Here is what we do to stay motivated about getting out of debt:

  • Every time I get paid, I put it on the credit card immediately. I get texts from my bank everytime Kohl’s pays me. So as soon as I get that text I log on and put that exact amount on the credit card. On my way home from tutoring, I stop at the ATM and deposit the money. Then when I get home I put it immediately on the credit card. This keeps the money from being spent any other way. Last month I ended up with almost 15 payments on the credit card. Some large, some small. But all felt amazing!
  • I keep a record of our payments on the fridge door. Every time I make a payment I write it on a piece of paper that is on the fridge with the date of the payment. Seeing it there every time we open the door reminds us of what we’re doing and keeps us going. Mr. Woodpecker has told me that this is his biggest motivator because it is “right there” every time he goes to eat.
  • We celebrate every payment and milestone. By celebrate I mean high fives, hugs, and kisses. When I put a $58 payment on the credit card it is awesome to know that I have a partner who will congratulate me on that and be just as excited as I am about it.
  • We got engaged. Okay, not everyone can do this. But now we’re extra motivated to pay off this debt because we want to start our married life without it and we don’t want to have our wedding until it is paid off and we can save for our wedding and pay for it in cash. This is also another amazing motivation to keep us going.

I won’t lie, the past 6 weeks have been exhausting. Working 45-50 hrs per week at my normal job and then going to my part time job in the evenings and weekends is just hard. I miss him a lot. And he misses me. The only way I can do this is knowing that he is taking care of everything at home while I’m not there and knowing that it is only temporary. It has definitely made us cherish the 1 or 2 nights a week that we get where I don’t have to work  all the more!

Oh Hey! I’m Engaged!

I’m a bit behind in this post, but on Halloween Mr Woodpecker and I got officially engaged.

There’s no crazy story behind it like some people.

We talked about it. He asked me. I said yes.

The next day we discussed a budget for a ring.

The next day we went shopping.

I found one I liked that was a about twenty cents over our agreed upon budget (no debt on the ring!).

He put it on hold so that I could sleep on it overnight.

The next morning I woke up and told him I was sure that I wanted it.

That day he went and bought it. And within about 15 minutes of him getting home that night I had the ring on my finger.

It is perfect. He is perfect. I’m just happy.

We’re looking at getting married after we pay off the credit card debt and save for the wedding. So probably next Christmas break. I’m happy and so excited. Being engaged (at least at the beginning) is quite a thrill.

Points and Dollars

It has been 9 weeks since I’ve joined Weight Watchers. And officially I’ve lost 15.2 lbs. I will weigh in again today and I’m anticipating that I’ll get my 10% weight keychain today (which I’ll get at 16 pounds).

The thing that I love the most about Weight Watchers is that you actually can eat (just about) whatever you want. You just have to budget for it. So if I absolutely have to (want to) have my 9 point beverage – I can. I just have to give up points for dinner or lunch and instead fill up on tasty, tasty fruits and vegetables. I feel a lot of freedom on Weight Watchers because of the fact that I don’t FEEL like I’m on a diet. I know I’m losing weight, I know I’ve starting eating healthier, I know that I’ve started exercising more, but I don’t feel like I’m dieting.

Last night Mr Woodpecker and I went to week 1 of Financial Peace University. Keep in mind, this is my second time through FPU. It was Mr. Woodpecker’s first. He was pretty apprehensive about going because he came from a family that didn’t talk about money, so the idea of talking about money with complete strangers was frightening to him. After the first meeting he was so excited. We talked about money and savings and our goals for about 2 hours afterwards. It was wonderful.

It was FIVE YEARS ago that I first started my financial journey. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve been a wheel stuck in mud the entire time. I start to get somewhere and something backtracks me. Moving. New job. Moving again. Etc. Always an excuse.

I wondered to myself last night: “Why can’t getting rid of debt be more like Weight Watchers?”

In a way they are the same. In Weight Watchers you have points to spend. In life you have money. You only have so much of either and after that you’re out.

But money isn’t as easy. In Weight Watchers I can spend my points each day as a fresh new day. I wake up and there are new points waiting for me! Yesterdays points have nothing to do with today’s or tomorrow’s and I always get a fresh supply. I can eat a cake or a brownie, or whatever I want as long as I can load up on veggies in my other meals.

Money? Well, by the second of the month most of my money has already been sent out for bills. Those don’t change. They’re always there. It isn’t like if this month I want a new TV I can just skimp on the bills to buy the new TV. And the money doesn’t refresh daily, or even weekly. And today’s mistakes? Those definitely effect tomorrow when it comes to your budget. I only get 24 paychecks a year, if I mess up one or two that can have a significant effect on the rest of the year.

Also, I’ve felt at many times while trying to get out of debt that I had to do “gazelle-like intensity” to do it. Which works for some people, a lot of people. But five years later, I find that all “gazelle-like intensity” does for me is leaves me burned out.

I can do intensity for months at a time. But eventually I find myself slowly losing the intensity and then thinking: “Yanno, I should just buy this t-shirt. I love it.” And that leads to the next thing, which leads to the next. And suddenly instead of paying $1000/month on my debt I’m down to just $250/month on my debt which is barely over minimum.

So, while I can’t make my money be just like Weight Watchers where I get points to use HOWEVER I want, I can make it a little more SS4BC friendly. Simply: I need to give myself a little cash each month for “fun”. Money that I can use to buy myself a t-shirt or those cute shoes or to pay for whatever little thing I want. So instead of my wants for things leaving me in a money tail-spin, they’re planned parts of the budget.

This week Mr Woodpecker and I are working on our budgets together. I’m excited for this new journey in life that we’re taking together.

One of these summers…

It is officially my second summer as a new professor. I swore to myself that I would give myself SOME time to relax, unlike last summer.

Last summer I was running high school day camps, taking a 2.5 hr per day class (Calculus, for refreshing and fun), and teaching a 2.5 hr per day class. It was exhausting. By the time August rolled around I had enough money/time for a 3 day trip to San Diego but that was my “summer vacation”.

This year is going along the same pace. I’m almost finished with the teaching (online, which is my first time), we’re finally done with the summer camps for high school students, and this past week I started doing my summer research. And in that I’m teaching a class to high school teachers next week, having friends and family visit at 3 different points this summer, oh and trying to keep up on unpacking, hanging things up, etc on my new house. I’m already exhausted. Thankfully I have nothing planned for August so I’ll relax for about 2 weeks before my contract begins. I’m sure that people will be contacting me half way in to that for meetings and questions, etc.

Financially speaking, Mr Woodpecker and I are going to start going to Financial Peace University starting next week. I haven’t told him a lot about it, just that it will help us learn to set goals about money together and talk productively about money. So far we haven’t had an issue. I made up a budget for myself while he was sitting next to me playing video games and he kept looking over and asking questions, which I think is a very good thing.

Then we went through and talked about what our financial goals are together for the house and personally.

It was a really good talk.

I’m excited for us to take this journey together and so thankful that I have a partner who wants to put in the time and effort  to make this work – together.

Can You Afford Not To?

One thing that I’ve failed to mention about Mr. Hive (intentionally, maybe?) is that he doesn’t have a college education. Nothing. He dropped out after one semester because at the time he wasn’t ready for college. He isn’t dumb, he just wasn’t ready to go straight out of high school. There isn’t anything wrong with this (in my opinion) and for some career paths having a college education isn’t necessary – and many of these are high paying.

However, on the whole, you have to be pretty ambitious or pretty intelligent or pretty gifted in a particular field to make a decent salary without a college education.

Mr Hive doesn’t fall in to any of those categories above. He’s bounced around from job to job and currently at 31 has found himself in his highest paying job yet. Making $14/hour. A job has no upward mobility. Or very little. He makes around $28,000/yr before taxes. And really, he isn’t skilled enough in any particular field to do better without pursuing some education.

He has aspirations for some day working in the IT field. Which many people can do without a degree if they are self motivated to learn the material on their own – which he has not done. Or have gone through formal education to learn the material – which he has not done either.

I told him when we first started dating that it didn’t bother me that he was uneducated, however, I did know that if nothing was done career-wise or aspiration-wise that eventually it would start to bother me. Our first date he mentioned how he wanted to go back to school and get a degree in IT. The start of 3 semesters later and it finally has eaten away at me. If someone was truly motivated to pursue this career path as he claimed he was when we first started dating, wouldn’t they be saving up money to pay for the tuition? Pursuing the certification exams that are widely accessible online? Consulting with his two good friends who are in the field on the path that they both recommend? Wouldn’t a person who was truly motivated to make a career path change to better their life being doing something more than complaining about where they were at?

The community college near us even offers an A.A. degree in exactly the field he wants to be in which INCLUDES an internship component. The job that he’s at can be done at less than full time if he wanted to pursue school full time and work part time. Also, all the classes are available in the evenings if he wasn’t to continue working full time and do school part time.

I essentially told him a few weeks ago that I had reached my limit. He needed to do something. Maybe it is arrogance, but while I understand that people are not always ready for college at 18, if someone says they’re ready for it now and they don’t do it I start to believe after a certain period of time that I’ve been had and they’re really just full of crap.

(Also, it is very embarrassing for me, the Ph.D. to confess to people who don’t know him that I am dating a guy who dropped out of college in the first semester. Seriously. I’d at least like a college graduate, but maybe that’s my own hang up?)

Last night he then asked me if I would “help him with the application”.

Me: “Have you gone online and looked at it?”

Him: “No.”

Me: *FLIP A LID* Seriously? You are asking for help but you haven’t even gone online to look at it? Why don’t you go look at it, start it, and see if there is actually anything you need help with.

You have to understand. I’m an educator. I HATE HATE HATE when students come in to my office asking for “help” but they’ve never even ATTEMPTED to try the problem on their own. Try it on your own and THEN come back with your specific issues. You may find that it is much easier than you thought it was, once you start.

He says okay and gets online and within 5 minutes he’s finished with the application – without my help.

Later we’re talking and he says “I’m just not sure if I can afford to go to school right now.”

I respond: “Well, you’re in a job where you have absolutely no hope of ever earning more money. Or you have the option of being SUPER poor for a 1.5-2 years while you earn your degree and then have an earning potential of twice what you make now (or more). I don’t think the question is whether you can afford to go to school right now or whether you can afford to NOT go to school right now?

I’m starting to feel like I’m pushing him too much, but I think he needs to be pushed. If he doesn’t want to be pushed, fine, but then I need to not be dating him. He seems to want someone to magically come along and pave the way and hand him his class schedule and a pile of cash and say “Here, have fun.” But that isn’t life. Sorry. You have to seek out what you want, opportunities are earned – not given.

I’ve given him (in my mind) an arbitrary date of Fall semester. He needs to have figured out what he wants and how he’s going to pursue it by then, or we will need to figure out something different in our relationship.

Harsh? Probably. But the reality is that when we first got together the impression from our very first conversation was that he was motivated to pursue this, and that was a condition I was okay with in terms of dating him. And to find out 10 months later that it was a complete farce is more than I can handle for a long term relationship.

The Price of a Gift

I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m a terrible gift giver. Well, not terrible at picking out gifts, but terrible in that there are very few people I actually give gifts to.

I’m not the type of person who buys gifts for semi-close acquaintances on their birthday. In fact, rarely do I even buy my closest friends anything more than a meal for their birthday. In my group of friends that has just been the status quo. We just don’t do gifts.

However, when it comes to a significant other or with family, I’m known to go all out. My ex and I (T.O. for those of you who also read my relationship blog) didn’t believe in just a little gift, we believed in purchasing experiences for each other. Some representative gifts  include me purchasing him flying lessons, me purchasing him scuba gear and diving classes, me purchasing him a weekend get-a-way to wine country plus staying at a bed and breakfast for the weekend. (He reciprocated with just as elaborate and expensive experiences in return, in case you were concerned this might be one-sided.)

All of these purchases, of course, brought to you by the debt building power of Visa.

This weekend was Mr Hive’s birthday. And that purchasing desire I feel when I want to buy something nice for someone I care about came out of me once again. I ended up purchasing him two gifts that we can enjoy together (one a board game we can play together and another a role playing game book for an RPG that we play). Total damage of the gifts? $95. Then my nice, quiet, romantic dinner with the two of us got turned into a dinner for 6. So my previous hope of getting out of dinner around $40 turned into over $80 once appetizers got thrown in for the party and my sister came so I had to buy her meal as well. I didn’t mind, the food was excellent and the company enjoyable. I just didn’t really imagine that I would be spending $175 on my boyfriend’s birthday.

I really should have set myself a lower limit on the gift. I know he would have been happier with one or the other of the two gifts and wouldn’t have cared what I spent. The dinner I probably should have been a little more forceful about the appetizers, though when the dishes are $15 a pop it is hard to make it out with tip for a reasonable price – good thing this isn’t something we’ll be doing regularly.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I should probably start saving monthly for a gift fund. I’ve been lucky the past few years that I’ve only have to buy birthday gifts for my sister and my dad. They both have birthdays around Christmas so usually I just use my Christmas funds to buy them birthday presents.

This year I also bought my good friend who recently had a baby a $75 stroller for her shower. I have another friend who is getting married in June that I plan on buying a gift for (he also is one of only two friends IRL that reads this blog). And these aren’t just run of the mill friends. These are good friends. Friends I would go into debt for. You know, the kind of friend where if they needed me I would be on a plane tomorrow and charge it to my credit card and not think twice about it kind of friends. There are some people I would simply go to Target and buy something around $20 from their registry – these aren’t those friends. These are $75-100 friends.

Wow – did I really just rank my friends by how much I would spend on a gift for them? Yes I did…

Anyway, the moral of the story is that I used to believe that because of how my life was set up that I didn’t need a gift fund. This year is proving me wrong. And typically these expenses have (at least for the stroller and the excess of Mr Hive’s gift) come out of my Miscellaneous fund. Here are the two options that I see for how to save towards a gift fund on my already strapped budget:

  1. Change my Christmas fund to a Gift fund. Increase monthly contribution by $10-20. While Christmas does mainly pay for gifts, it also pays for other things like Christmas dinner and decorations. Saving as a gift/Christmas fund would mean that in a year where I have lots of gifts outside of Christmas my Christmas pot would be lower, but in years where I have few gifts it would be higher. Not sure it makes a lot of difference in the end. I’ll have to spend what I have to spend come December.
  2. Start a separate fund for Gifts. Start monthly contribution of $10-20. I like this idea because it is dedicated to gifts. But even at $20 per month I’m only saving $240, which I would have ALREADY spent this year on the baby shower + Mr Hive’s birthday.
  3. Ignore this as an aberrant year and get on with my life. I could always just keep things status quo and not change my savings towards gifts. But as my GOOD friends are getting to the point in their lives where they are getting married, having babies, and more are likely to come in the next few years – this seems inadvisable.
  4. Set up a savings account for gifts with a target money amount. This would essentially work like my E-fund does. Maybe I save to it monthly until I get $150 in it. Then I stop saving until I have to use it. Then once I use it I save up again. That way I’m only putting money in it when I use it – not when I don’t. This would mean in lean gift giving years it make never be touched, but in high gift giving years it is constantly in use. This would account for feast or famine years, but would require me to redo the budget every time I have to buy a gift to restock the gift fund. That itself is kind of annoying.

So this is where I need you, dear readers. What do you do about gifts? Do you have a gift fund or do they normally come out of your regular spending money? How do you budget for a gift fund when year to year they can be so variable? Or do you simply save for each once you know that it is going to happen (I mean, I have at least 6 month notices on most marriages and babies)? I’d like to know how others handle gifts before I make a decision on what to do myself. Please, speak up. =D