National Thrift Week

January 21, 2009 at 11:25 am | Posted in Budget | 1 Comment
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It’s been brought to my attention (by one of the personal finance blogs that I read. and yes, I am totally nerdy enough to read personal finance blogs, and secure enough in my nerdy-ness to admit it to the masses. or the 4 of you still reading this.)…

Anyways, let’s try again. It’s National Thrift Week! Or at least, there is a movement to bring back National Thrift Week. And the only reason I bring this up is because I think it’s kind of a cool idea. It’s also personally relevant, as JT and I set our official 2009 budget over the weekend.

Here’s the history behind NTW:

In 1916, with the First World War looming imminently on the horizon, the leaders of America’s major civic organizations launched an ambitious education campaign designed to ready the American public for a wartime economy. Dubbed “National Thrift Week” and sponsored primarily by the Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.), the campaign became a recurring celebration, beginning each year on January 17, in honor of the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, the “American apostle of thrift.”

The activities of National Thrift Week were guided by several specific principles and behaviors and each was given its own day. Hence, Americans joined together every January in celebrating Have a Bank Account Day, Invest Safely Day, Carry Life Insurance Day, Keep a Budget Day, Pay Bills Promptly Day, Own Your Home Day, and Share with Others Day. Then, as today, critics often maligned thrift as simple hoarding, but these principles demonstrate how the founders envisioned Thrift Week as so much more—they saw it not as a way to encourage miserly behavior, but instead to cultivate responsible consumerism and civic progress. Rather than self-denial, the goal was self-control. The word, “thrift,” after all, finds its root in the phrase “to thrive,” so it should come as no surprise that the slogan for Thrift Week was “For Success and Happiness.” National Thrift Week slowly fizzled out in 1966, but you can read the rest here.

It’s a cute idea, and who wouldn’t want to celebrate “Pay Bills Promptly Day”? Especially if it is accompanied by a parade, balloons, and cake. But something tells me that those things might go against the self-control that’s supposed to be cultivated by National Thrift Week.

And about our budget. What I want to know is: how many of you have a formal budget that you follow each week/month/year/etc? And where did you learn to put together such a budget? Seriously… I’m curious.  Was I sick the day we learned about this in high school?  Did we even learn about it?  Because I’d say we’re fairly well-educated, but people, we are clueless about these things. Or at least we were.

We started out by tracking our spending. Every. single. expense was entered into a spreadsheet. It was annoying, but also interesting to see what we were spending money on. I have typically operated under the budgeting principle of spend the least bit possible. Don’t get me wrong, I have my occasional impulse buys and the ability to convince myself that I need x, y, or z. But typically, these purchases were exciting for a minute, and then I’d begin to regret the purchase, telling myself that I could have just saved a little more if I hadn’t indulged…

Jason has a different approach to finances all together. His approach is more like I want it, I have money, I’ll buy it. He’s had his more self-restrained moments also (thank goodness!), because this approach could have easily resulted in some serious credit card debt, had he gotten out of control with it.

After a few months of simply tracking our spending, our perspective on money changed. We finally paid attention to what we were buying, and often found ourselves asking weather we really needed that item. Most of the time, the answer was no.

Last weekend, we finally sat down and talked about our goals for the upcoming year, and how we can budget appropriately to achieve those goals. (one of our new year’s resolutions is to make a budget and stick to it).

Our 2009 budget is divided into 2 categories: fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses include things like our mortgage, phone bill, and other bills that stay the same every month. The variable expenses are a little more tricky, and are divided into 5 categories: utilities, groceries, gas, eating out, and miscellaneous. Figuring the amounts to spend in each of these categories was a little tough. First, we looked at our utility bills from months past and estimated our monthly costs based on those bills. There isn’t too much we can do to reduce our water, gas, and electric bills, so those are sort of almost-fixed bills. Even though they vary month-to-month, it’s not by much. We based our monthly gas and grocery expense budgets in a similar way.

As for our eating out and miscellaneous funds, we just sat down and discussed what we each thought reasonable amounts for each would be. If necessary, we could make our spending in these categories nonexistent, but we both enjoy our date nights, and occasionally like to treat ourselves to other things, like haircuts and paint.

I’m excited and hopeful that our new budget will be a good compromise between our two spending strategies – no longer will I have to worry that we shouldn’t have splurged on dinner out, because it’s budgeted for. And Jason’s spending will be reigned in, because that’s what the budget says. And, most importantly, this should allow us to save for our future together, so that we can achieve our goals.


How Much is Too Much?

November 10, 2008 at 10:01 pm | Posted in Budget, Our 3/4 Bath, Our Kitchen | 3 Comments
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Our kitchen is not too pretty. And not very functional, either. For example, we don’t have a stove, our microwave is on loan from friends J&A (thanks guys!), we purchased our fridge off of craigslist for $20 (that included delivery) and it’s now beginning to leak in funny places, and the cabinet under the sink is beginning to rot away. And, let’s just say that the sink/cabinet/linoleum floor/tile ceiling are not really our style.

So we’ll be remodeling the kitchen. And, by that I mean, we’ll be hiring someone else to do the actual work. Because as willing as we are to remove wallpaper, paint, and landscape, moving pipes and electrical are a little beyond our skills. I talked with one remodeling company today, and they will be coming out next week to take a look. Until then, she asked me to compile a list of needs and wants, and to form a budget. We have a pretty good idea of what we’d need and want in a kitchen, but absolutely no clue when it comes to making a budget for a project this big.

We’re lucky enough to be able to expand the current (small) kitchen into a 4th bedroom. Having a bedroom located directly off of the kitchen seems strange to us anyways. The 4th bedroom has a toilet in one of the closets, so we thought we’d see if we could add in a 3/4 bath while we’re remodeling the kitchen.

So, it’s survey time!

How much would you pay to go from this

Current kitchen: no appliances! moldy cabinets! ugly linoleum! no space to cook!

4th bedroom conveniently located off of the kitchen!
(we’ve unpacked at least 1/2 of these boxes since the move)

Toilet in the closet of the extra room off the kitchen. Very handy, but also super-disgusting since there’s no place to wash your hands!

to this?

From This Young House

From the Newlywed Diaries

Help us figure out a range for our budget! Leave a comment with what you’d expect to pay for just a kitchen remodel, or a kitchen + 3/4 bath remodel!

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