Tag Archives: budget

Working On Money (or A Prosperous Heart Update)

I wrote before about how the podcast I work for was going to do the 12 week journey in “The Prosperous Heart”. We just got to the end of the 12 weeks and I figured it was time to do an update.

I’ll admit that I did not follow the 12 weeks as strictly as I did with “The Artist’s Way”. The main thing I did do was the morning pages. I struggled with the morning pages when I did “The Artist’s Way” and I really didn’t enjoy them. They became something that annoyed me at the end of that journey and I really was not enjoying having my mornings start off on such a negative note. So I decided that for me, doing the morning pages wasn’t going to benefit me the way that it should so I didn’t do them.

I know that some people will argue that I didn’t really do the 12 week journey this time if I left out doing the morning pages, but that’s ok with me. I have to do what is right for me and I would rather try to do the journey the best that I can instead of not doing it at all. I did do the weekly reading and the questions at the end of the chapters, so I feel like I did a majority of the journey.

The biggest thing about this 12 week journey is to track every single penny that you spend. Since I already do that with YNAB, I figured it would be pretty easy for me to keep doing it. And fortunately it was pretty easy for me. The only annoying this was with credit card spending. I track it in YNAB and it was a bit weird to have to track it in a second location as well (for “The Prosperous Heart”, I tracked everything in a little notebook). I didn’t like having to do everything twice, but it was a minor issue.

But while I track all my credit card spending, tracking cash was a new thing for me. I was looking forward to seeing how being extra aware of my cash spending would help me out. And for the most part, I got much better about being more cautious on what I was buying. There were a few times I forgot to track my cash spending (mainly laundry money or parking meters), but I would say I tracked all but maybe 10 times I used cash. It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty happy with being close to perfect.

I think that many people in our group weren’t as into this 12 week journey as they were with the other one. Some of us felt like the book didn’t speak to us the same way. Some people felt that the chapters were repetitive and a bit disconnected. It was not easy for us to admit that we didn’t enjoy this journey as much as the other one since we all felt so great after finishing “The Artist’s Way”. But it’s important to admit to yourself when you don’t feel like you are getting what you want out of a book/class/lecture.

We tried to encourage each other to stay on top of the weekly chapters and the lessons, but this time the group online wasn’t as active and sometimes it felt like we were each on our own journeys instead of doing it as a group. It’s not bad to do it alone, but it was different. And I don’t know if I preferred the group version or being a bit more on my own. Each journey was so different because of what was in it, so it’s not easy to compare them to each other.

Now that this is done, I’m going to keep some of the lessons and challenges going but I’m not going to keep all of them. I might continue to track cash spending, but I think just having the extra awareness I have now will be helping me so much. And for credit card spending, I already track that and I have noticed that I haven’t been charging as much stuff as I did before. So it’s nice to know that I did learn something and that I’m not spending as much as I did before. I’m not saving as much as I’d like, but it’s baby steps toward that.

Overall, I’m glad that I took this journey. Even if I didn’t do everything that was supposed to be done, I feel like I have made a change and I’ve learned new things about myself. I’m hoping that I can continue to spend less and focus less on things that cost money and look for things that are free that I like to do. I know that I need to get my credit card debt paid off and I really want to get it done soon. I just need to buckle down and work harder toward that. And hopefully the lessons I learned from “The Prosperous Heart” will help me over the next weeks and months to accomplish that.

Another Monthly Challenge Down (or The Prosperous Heart)

A new month brings the end to one monthly challenge and the start to a new one! I’ll admit that last month’s challenge was much more challenging than I thought it would be, but I’m glad that I got through it.

I originally wanted to do the plank challenge to help connect myself to my body again. It’s been weird feeling so disconnected and I had high hopes that this would help bring things back to normal. And this challenge didn’t do that at all. Sometimes, it almost made things worse because I was comparing myself to how I could do planks 10 years ago and the lack of core strength that I have now.

But even with this challenge not doing that, I finally do feel more connected to my body again. It had nothing to do with the challenge, but through just getting back to life I feel more like me again. I think I needed this challenge to force me to work on connecting with my body again, it just wasn’t the thing that did it. But having something push me to work on it was good. I might try another one of the fitness challenges in the app, but I’m not as concerned about doing them as I was before. But I’m glad that I tried and that I made it through.

And for this month’s challenge, I’m actually going to do something that I started earlier this week. The membership of the Inside Acting Podcast has done some fun book club type things this year. At the beginning of the year we did the 12 week process of “The Artist’s Way”. I’m glad that I did it with the support of the membership because I’ve never been able to complete the entire 12 week journey before on my own. I didn’t love the entire process, but I learned a lot and I’m seeing changes in my life because of it.

And this past Sunday, we started our next book within the podcast membership. This time, we are doing another book by Julia Cameron, “The Prosperous Heart”.

There are a lot of the same concepts in both books, including the Morning Pages. I didn’t enjoy the Morning Pages before and I’m not going to stress myself out doing them this time. But this book is much more focused on money and financial things.

I’ve been tracking my budget for a while now using YNAB. Using a budgeting app has been really great for me. Even though I’m still struggling a bit financially, I feel much more in control of things and understand how to pay down my credit card debt now without feeling overwhelmed.

Part of this book is to track every single expense you have. This will be pretty simple for me since I’m already doing it, but I’m going more detailed now and that’s what my monthly challenge will be. I’m not only going to track what I do bank transfers for or when I use my credit card. I’m going to track every single penny that is spent.

A lot of times, I’ll get cash at the beginning of the week and plan on using that for random things. But before I know it the cash is gone and I don’t know where I spent it. Or I don’t know where all the quarters I got for laundry went when it seems like I just went to the bank to get a roll. Some people don’t spend as much when they use cash, but for me using cash has become mindless since I don’t track it in YNAB. I need to stop this because I want to track my money better. And using this as my monthly challenge is a great way for me to get into this habit.

More often than not, my monthly challenges become something I do all the time. So if I take this month to work on tracking my money better, I have a feeling that I will be able to continue to do this and hopefully it will only help me in my money management skills. I know that I’ve been doing a lot of great work with money, especially in the past year or so, but I need to do more and this might be the perfect thing for me to do.

Budgeting and Spending (or Sharing YNAB With A Cashier)

This week I did a bit of shopping to prepare for my trip next week. I got a couple of things I needed (travel toiletries) and a couple of things I wanted (a new purse and hat). While I did need some of the things I got, I still was very careful with what I was spending. I’m trying to do much better with my budgeting plan and starting over in YNAB so I could start fresh with a better budget idea has really helped me. I’m much more on top of my expenses and income and I’ve been able to make larger payments toward my credit card debt than I have in the past (although I’ve had a small setback in that because I had to put almost $1000 into fixing my car last month).

The current version of YNAB is a very different set-up than what I signed up with. I haven’t wanted to make the change yet (it costs more with the new version and I’m happy with what I have), but I’m still trying to be a very involved user and whenever possible I add my spending in the app as it happens. It’s pretty convenient to have the app on my phone and entering my expenses or income takes so little time. Compared to other budgeting apps I’ve tried to use, this one seems to make the most sense to me and doesn’t intimidate me especially with having income that can vary a lot.

One of my shopping trips to prepare for my trip was to Nordstrom Rack (they’ve always got some amazing things there!) and when it was my turn to pay I handed over my credit card and then asked again what the total was. The cashier told me and I immediately got out my phone to enter what I spent (it was within my budget so it’s all good).

The cashier asked me what I was doing and I mentioned that I was entering my purchase into YNAB so I could make sure I don’t overspend what I’ve budgeted for this month. She mentioned how smart that was and how she should do the same thing. I have a feeling that she probably downloaded the app that night because she seemed really excited about it.

Budgeting may never come easily to me (unless I have an unlimited amount of money and don’t actually have to budget), but I’m working on it. Being open about budgeting has helped because it takes away the shame I’ve felt in the past about the money issues I have. I’ve been told that I’m very irresponsible for having a credit card balance that isn’t paid off in full each month. I felt awful about that and didn’t want to tell anyone else about it. But when I opened up about it, I realized that a lot of people I know have debt of some sort and there’s nothing wrong with it. And a lot of those friends have been using various budgeting apps to help bring down their debt so I want to follow their example.

It actually felt really great for those brief moments I was talking with the Nordstrom Rack cashier about YNAB. I had no feelings of shame sharing that I needed help to track my money and to make sure I’m being responsible. I felt like even if I am not in a perfect financial set-up right now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have advice I can share with others and hopefully help them get into the best financial shape possible. You don’t have to have everything figured out and settled to be able to share with others what may be able to help them.

I know that I’ve got a long way to go with my budgeting and debt payoff, but it’s the small steps that will add up and make a big difference in the end. And hopefully in the not so distant future I will know that my credit card debt will be paid off and then the budgeting will shift from debt payments to savings and I can hopefully do more fun things more often.

A Fresh Budget (or Starting Over With YNAB)

I’ve been budgeting with YNAB for almost a year now. I’ve been pretty good about entering every expense and paycheck into the system (I’ve even had some fun laughs with friends when we are out to dinner and we both pull up our apps to enter our expense when we pay the bill). It’s been good for me to be accountable with every dollar that I spend and to have a more realistic view on how much money I’m making.

But even though I was doing all the work, there was a serious disconnect with me happening in my budgeting. I have no clue why I was so disconnected, but something wasn’t right and I couldn’t shake the feeling. I had been trying to figure out what was wrong, but I just kept feeling like something was wrong and I couldn’t fix it.

I started to download a bunch of other budgeting apps. There are dozens of free budgeting apps and some of them seemed ok, but none of them were fitting what I needed (the biggest issue was finding one that didn’t expect the income to be a steady amount). YNAB has actually changed a bit since I got it and the new version is more of an online system (instead of it connecting via Dropbox) and you pay a monthly or annual fee instead of paying for a 1 time purchase. I don’t want to get the new version yet because I want to feel comfortable with the version I have and I really don’t want to have another expense added to my life right now.

So after a few weeks of feeling lost and frustrated, I finally decided to get rid of my current budget in YNAB, delete everything, and start completely over. When I started over I also re-watched all of the videos online about setting things up and how to use them efficiently. I learned things that I missed the first time and I was setting up my budgeting categories into things that make sense to me.

YNAB Categories

I kept the debt, monthly bills, and everyday expense categories because those are pretty basic and they haven’t changed. I still have monthly bills, everyday expenses, and my debt to pay off. But the rest of my categories have gotten more specific. I’m breaking down my expenses by different aspects of my life and the priorities I have with them. Some of my acting expenses can be sacrificed for my day job expenses (classes aren’t as important as paying my estimated taxes). Splitting the expenses in the categories does help me see where I need to save and spend versus where I want to save and spend.

I know that some people have very limited categories in their budget, but I think for me the specifics are really going to help me. Sometimes, I forget about the annual expenses that I have that add up all the time. I only pay dues for WIF and one of the casting submissions sites once a year, and I don’t want that amount to shock me anymore. This way, I can save a little bit each month for those annual expenses and I will see exactly what I’m saving it for (compared to before where I listed it as annual acting expenses).

So far, this new budget is working out well for me. I’m feeling more connected to my money and I’m more aware of what’s happening. I’m trying to set up my monthly savings for my annual things, but I’m still working on how I want them to be organized. In the past, I probably would have just given up with things got hard for me to figure out. But now I really do want to make this work. I know that budgeting has helped so much this past year and that it can be doing so much more for me. And once I get that figured out, hopefully I can start paying down more debt and start saving so I can take another amazing vacation sometime soon.

Working on Budgeting (or Spending Money To Save Money)

I’ve been trying to find a way to help make paying my credit card debt easier. And at the same time, I’ve been working on figuring out the best way to create a budget.

I’ve been able to make a really basic budget by listing all the expenses that I know that I have every month (rent, utilities, online subscriptions). So I know what the minimum I need to make each month in order to survive (I’m almost there). But knowing how much money I need to make to pay essential bills doesn’t really help me for budgeting things that change from month to month like groceries, shopping, gas, and other expenses. Those seem really tough for me to budget for because I try my best to set aside a certain amount for it but things come up and then my entire budget falls apart. My system doesn’t allow for flexibility and unexpected expenses.

And I’ve tried lots of budgeting ideas and systems in the past. The big problem that I’ve found with almost all systems is that they were designed for someone with steady income. That’s not something that I have. While my box office job is pretty steady with my weekly pay (that would only change if I’m missing lots of hours that I can’t make up), my research job and babysitting work is not as stable. So I needed to figure out how freelancers budget (even though I’m not a freelancer).

I was searching around online and happened to come across You Need A Budget. This is totally going to sound like I’m being paid to say all this, but I swear that this is all my opinion and I’m not getting anything out of it (unless YNAB would like to give me a copy of the software for free!).

I’m in the middle of a free trial, but so far I’m loving this budgeting system. It really works for someone who has more random income. Basically every single purchase and deposit is recorded. You set aside how much you’d like to spend in categories like bill, savings, debt, and anything else you want and then you put in how much you have spent of each one. The idea is that while you may start out by using this month’s pay to pay this month’s bills, eventually the money you make one month will be going toward the bills you will have in the future (which will end the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle).

This might not really be helping me pay down my credit card debt, but it is helping me work on a budget and figure out where I can spend money that makes sense. And hopefully one day I can start working toward putting money away for the future and other things like vacations. But for now, the main plan for me is to figure out a realistic budget and to see if there is more money that I can be putting toward my debt and not toward things that really aren’t needed.

Like I said, right now, I’m doing a free trial of this system. But I’m pretty sure that I’ll be paying for it when my trial ends (I think it’s about $60). But I’d love to hear from any of you who also use You Need A Budget so I can figure out more tricks and tips to maximize the system and really get serious about figuring out my money situation.

Update: Since posting this blog, I have decided to spend the money to keep the YNAB software after the free trial. It’s really awesome. If you want to buy it, you can use this link for 10% off!

Getting In My Disneyland Fix (or One Last Bit Of Christmas Time In The New Year)

This past Sunday, I made a trip down to Disneyland with my friend Lupe and her son Diego. Lupe and I have been trying to get together for a Disneyland trip for a long time, and finally our days off matched (and our annual passes weren’t blacked out)!

We got to the parks just before 10am. It wasn’t too crowded, which surprised me since it was a Sunday and the last day of the Christmas decorations at Disneyland. Some of the seasonal rides (like Haunted Mansion Holiday) had huge lines, but most of the other rides had pretty reasonable wait times. I use a pass at Disneyland that allows me to wait off to the side while waiting for my ride (standing for a long period of time without moving really aggravates my hip). But our wait times for most rides were about 30 minutes (after waiting our time, we are led onto the ride, but it’s not instant access).

A lot of our day was just looking around at how gorgeous the day was. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.

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But of course, we went on a bunch of rides. We did Haunted Mansion Holiday and got stuck on it for a minute at the graveyard scene. But that did allow me to take this pretty cool picture (and for those of you who hate people who take pictures in the dark rides, this was done without a flash).

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We also rode the train around the park, only to get stuck at the train station in Tomorrowland (there was some issue with the trains and they couldn’t keep running).

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I wanted to ride the submarines, but they are closed down for a long refurbishment. They haven’t drained the lagoon yet, but the waterfall stopped running and you could see a little bit inside the show building (I dream of getting stuck on that ride inside the show building so I could look around and see behind the scenes!).

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We rode the monorail around as well. Lupe and Diego had no idea that you could ride in the nosecone with the driver, so we did that. They used to give you a co-pilot’s license as a little souvenir, but now they give you a boarding pass (I actually think the boarding pass is better).

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We also went on Star Tours, Space Mountain, and Pirates of The Caribbean before heading over to California Adventure to ride my one of my favorite rides, Radiator Springs Racers. Our car won the race in case you cared.

This was the first time I had been in Cars Land during Christmas time. They have so many cute Christmas trees decorated in Cars themes in that area. I had to get a picture with one.

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At this point, I was starting to be in a lot of pain and I forgot to bring my painkillers with me. So we decided to head back home.

It was a great trip with a great friend. I’m glad I made it to the parks before all the decorations were gone. And of course, I love getting to go on the rides.

My pass expires pretty soon. I know I’ll be renewing it, it’s just an issue of when. My original plan was to wait until the spring when my parents are here (we are going to spend a day in the parks). But with my (f)unemployment probably starting in about a month, I might want my pass to be good then so I can go on those free days. I haven’t had the chance to recycle enough ink to pay for a new pass, so I’ll have to see how to budget it. I know that Disneyland does monthly payment plans, but I don’t know if I want another monthly bill.

Either way, I know I’ll be back in the parks soon. I’m hoping to fit in one more quick visit before my pass expires!

Trying to Budget for Disneyland (or Does Someone Want to Give Me an Annual Pass?)

I love Disneyland. Totally love it.

As a kid, I think I went to Disneyland once a year when my family drove down from the Bay Area to San Diego to visit family. I don’t remember loving Disneyland as much as a kid as I do now.

Since I’ve moved to LA 11 years ago, I’ve had several years of having an annual pass. When my work schedule was different, I would sometimes go 2 to 3 times per month. A bunch of times I would just go and ride a few rides, grab a Dole Whip, and head back to LA.

So much of the iPhoto on my laptop is filled with Disneyland adventure pictures like these:

(you can totally see me at all my different weights in those pictures)

My last annual pass expired last year in April. And I really want to make it to Disneyland now. I haven’t been on many of the new rides, and I just miss it there.

But as almost everyone knows, Disneyland is not cheap. A 1 day park hopper ticket is over $100. And if you are going to go at least twice in a year, the annual pass is the way to go. But the cheap annual passes have so many blackout dates that it’s tough to make sure you go on valid days. And when I get an annual pass, I almost always pay for the parking add-on. The best annual pass is $650 (but that includes parking). So if I can make it to Disneyland 7 times in a year, that pass will totally be worth it. And I’m not taking into account all the food and merchandise discounts you get with the passes.

But $650 is $650 and right now, I don’t have that. Well, I do, but I’d rather put it towards my credit card debit than Disneyland (I never thought I’d ever say that). I’m looking at the 2nd and 3rd cheapest annual passes, but those are both over $300.

I’m not going to get a pass until I know that I’ll be going to the park, and I think I’ll be going sometime next month. So I’m trying to see if I can budget for one of the cheaper passes. It is always an option to upgrade a pass or add-on parking later, so maybe I’ll have an amazing sale at work that will cover the cost of an upgrade or add-on.

This budgeting stuff is hard! đŸ˜‰