This  year, I’m focusing on one primary financial goal: boost my savings! But obtaining this goal requires a bit of a road map; specific instructions on ways to increase my pitiful savings amounts. Part 2 of my goals for 2011 focuses one one solution -finite gift cards.

I’ve always enjoyed staring at my colorful Quickbook’s pie charts, then evaluating how much I’m spending on a monthly and yearly basis. I can estimate how much I spend on each category, then plug those numbers into my excel budget sheet and come up with a fairly accurate budget. However, this past year I tried to stick to my excel budget yet found that I spent more than I had anticipated while viewing my year-end Quickbooks report. Seems I have a bit of a leaky budget I need to attend to.

But where are the leaks? One of my leaks seems to be bad habits, like my Starbucks  habit and my husband’s cigar smoking habit. Yet I have a solution to fixing this “leak”: Finite gift cards.

This year, I’m going to decrease my visits to Starbucks by a total of 6 days a month. It doesn’t seem like much, but my strategy is to load my Starbucks Gold Card on the first of the month with a set amount. When that amount runs out, it means preparing coffee at home. I have a wonderful French Press and some yummy Cinnamon Starbucks coffee (thanks to Linsey Knerl) that is just as tasty, well almost, as my Iced Grande, 8 pump vanilla, no water Americano. Total savings per month: $15.00.

My husband’s habit is a little more expensive, but sticking to a finite amount at the beginning of the month will help reduce his cost by about $20 per month.

Ultimately, my goal is to find the extra $200 to pad my savings account. I’ve found $35 so far. Next post I’ll describe another major leak that should shore up a few more dollars and get me closer to that $200.

What strategies are you giving a go-ahead to achieve your goals or resolutions for 2011?

13 Comments

    • @Everyday Tips – Good for you for giving up soda. I’ve been trying to do the same by drinking more water. So far, so good. Good luck!

  1. You should have asked everyone for Starbucks cards for christmas.:)

    I love it as well, but go once a week. One more week and I’m gold for another year.

    Good luck on your savings goals. Sounds like you have a strategy to make it happen.

    • @Kay Lynn – Normally I get a couple of their gift cards as gifts, but this year I only received one! Today is the first day I’m making my own coffee, so I’ll see how it goes. 😉

  2. That sounds like a good first step. I’ve been meaning to do the same thing for a while now…though now Starbucks is less of a vice for me, but it might work for my husband and his once a day habit!

    • @Lindy Mint – Thanks for the comment. I’ll see how the finite gift cards work. My next step is another fairly easy one that I’ll be posting in the next couple of days.

  3. Ronald R. Dodge, Jr. Reply

    For us, I don’t think there is much to change other than just to follow along with the financial order as I have put into place a long while ago, which has been working out pretty good for us. Of course, that does mean staying on top of it and make adjustments as needed, but not really nearly as hard to do as people make it out to be once everything is in place, and the household adheres to the plan.

    As for fixing a leaky budget, that’s something that shouldn’t be just caught at the end of the year, but rather something that should be caught at the minimal when it’s quarterly budget review time, which for me, that’s December, March, and June with the annual budget process done in August/September. If it’s bad enough, it should also be caught when the financial results are locked into place at the end of each and every month. There has been such months I have experienced such things, and it was something I had a discussion with my wife about and what we can do to fix it so as to get back onto track. Even in 2010, we had one such month of just that very experience. It was the month of July when we suffered a $1,500 loss to Short-Term Networth value that wasn’t even attributed to market effects as our market stuff went up that month, but networth value still fell by a large amount. The one month I would have expected a fall of that sort would have been the month of September when we suffered sudden losses, but given the overtime I was getting that month, we actually had a gain to the Short-Term Networth Value. I was even thinking I was going to have to borrow from the emergency fund to replace the asset, but it worked out, the overtime money covered it though barely did. If it wasn’t for the overtime money, I would have had to borrow from the emergency fund, part of it would have been the money attributed to the depreciation of the asset and part of it attributed to the sudden loss portion of it.

    October came, and I ended up having basically a $2,000 repair job on the car I use to commute to and from work. That money, I did have to take from the EF. It just so happened to work out, the EF had more than earned that much money over the course of the year, so the earnings on the fund more or less covered the expense of the vehicle repairs. That repair job was fully attributed to the depreciation aspect of the vehicle as it’s something you expect to have to deal with over time. Given that was entirely depreciation based, it wasn’t something I would consider as true financial emergency cause you know it’s going to happen, you just may not know when or by how much, but you do know the longer it goes, the more likely the repair job is going to be more costly. For that reason, that’s one of the reasons why I highly stress to use a depreciation schedule for *ALL* long-term tangible man made assets including land improvement items. A bunch of people buy into the argument homes appreciate over time, but I don’t buy into that argument for 2 reasons:

    First, the only way a home truely go up in *REAL* value is if significant restoration that extents it’s useful life time usage or addition was done to the home.

    Second, in the absense of the first item, the only reason why home values would typically go up would be cause it’s a function of inflation. As for what happened between 2001 and 2007, that was still economics at work, but only from the angle, as interest dropped, economic forces had home prices going up to counter the effect of lower interest rates, keeping in mind of cost of living in the various areas.

    • @Ronald R. Dodge, Jr. – I think checking the budget every quarter is a good goal. I’m pretty good at looking at my budget and comparing it to my expenses on a month to month basis, but this year I’m really doing something about reigning in a few loose ends and saving some additional money that I know I can save. I just have to be a little more diligent! 😉

  4. Ronald R. Dodge, Jr. Reply

    @First Gen American

    I attempted to break things down like you are thinking of doing, but it just seemed to be too much effort for the level of benefit I was getting from it. As time progressed, yes, some weeks I would get one set, but other weeks may end up getting a different set as some items would last longer than just one week while other items would not. Cause of there being so many variations, I ended up just taking the average weekly amount and go from there. I even attempted to look for places of where to cut back, but that can only be done up to a certain point before one end up scrimping too much and may end up having just the opposite happen (end up splurging one week due to way too much cut back). Don’t get me wrong, you can’t give up to get your budget in line, but you have to know what is your true cost of living for your entire household and what income you have to work with. If you don’t have enough income, you do have to get creative, even if you in a situation as I was in during my college years, when I was denied any sort of help for living expenses all cause I was a full time student on the Pell Grant (yeah, that is suppose to be used for living expenses, but the college gets first dibs at it), which then they said I had to work a minimal of 20 hours a week to get any sort of help. However, they didn’t take into account I was working via the College Work Study program, which was suppose to exempt me from the 20 hour work week rule. Via that program, I was working between 15 and 25 hours a week at minimal wage and was still at 2/3 of federal poverty level for a household size of 1, and at 4/9 of state poverty level, but yet, I was still denied any sort of help for necessary living expenses. That had only re-enforced some of the harsh lessons I learned as early as 4th grade that I can only depend on my ownself and not on any one else for anything, even if I really did need the help. To this very day, I am still indirectly paying for those years of insufficient income (1992 – 2000), but the effects to our budget each year is getting to be less and less and less.

    You may not want to know how I learned some of such lessons in the 4th grade as it was by a manner that no child should have to go through growing up, but that’s what made me so tough to the point I was even accused in college of being too competitive as the only way to get any sort of respect was to be #1 at something meaningful to them, which for me that were computers and cross country running.

    Anyhow, you must know what are the necessary living expenses for your home, and then if you still don’t have enough income, you have to find a way to get more income to cover that gap, rather if you request help from the local government (be aware of the welfare trap and don’t fall into it, but if denied, then move on) or it be from having to get creative and get money else where. Of course, has to be legally, ethically, and morally right too.

    One such thing, came August of 2003, when income went down while necessary living expenses went up, that situation also pointed out as to why I have to have multiple sources of income, thus one such reason why I been having to find ways to increase residual income as a secondary source of income outside of retirement funds to earned income. Since that time, I have worked on that very thing, which I have gotten into the stock market. Last year was the first year for me to have total residual income to be in the 5 digit figure and also the first year to have the residual income outside of retirement funds to be in the 4 digit mark. The year prior, it was only by like 600 but then last year (2010), it was by more than $2,000.

  5. Ronald R. Dodge, Jr. Reply

    Always pays off, but then people don’t do such things unless they got burnt from attempting to take a supposedly short cut and ended up costing them a lot more in the end.

    Granted, I don’t use so called any budgeting software like Quicken, but then many of them don’t fit my needs and given how computer savvy I am and how advanced I am with the software side, I setup my own formulas and codes as needed, which then makes management of such items so much easier to do in the end. In this case, I use Excel quite extensively.

    • @Ronald – I also like using Excel. I set up my budget and calculate my savings through excel, but then I compare it to my Quickbooks reports and check register to make sure I’m on target.

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