Friday, January 04, 2008

Working on the 2008 Budget...

I've been digging into creating a more detailed budget for 2008 in Quicken. I shared my early broad strokes in this post, but now I'm using a feature in Quicken that lets you start a budget by just copying your total expenses from the year before as a starting point. I know I had some weird expenses last year that I won't have this year, such as all the furniture I bought. And my property taxes should be lower. But I'm trying to budget for some fairly expensive travel, and there are a few other weird one-time things that I'd like to find room for this year. This is where things get really difficult. I want to meet my savings goals, but it just seems like there are a lot of other things I want too! For instance:

Travel: as mentioned in this post, I may do a big trip with a friend. The various options being discussed are going to be expensive. I'd kind of already written one of them off as being too expensive, but it may still be on the table and I don't want to pass up a good opportunity just over money. Money may be the most valid reason to pass it up, but the other side of the story is that I don't have many other friends who can afford this kind of travel and if I had to go alone, it would cost even more. I don't want to have regrets of the kind I did when I wrote "I Thought I Couldn't."

New computer: my iBook's hard drive is full and it's over 7 years old and seems incredibly slow. Does it work for a lot of the basic things I use it for, like Quicken and blogging? Sort of. Quicken works fine, but for some reason my web browser can't seem to handle Blogger anymore. The delay in typing is so long that I have to write my posts in TextEdit and then copy them to Blogger. Also, my iPod (I was given a new one) can't connect to this computer, so I have to burn CDs and load them from my work computer, which is technically verboten. (Shh!) Is any of this the end of the world? No. I guess I can try to keep going on this computer for at least another year, even though I'd really like a shiny new one.

New camera: my digital camera is also getting pretty old-- I think I got it 6 years ago. It is wonderfully small and takes pretty decent pictures, but I'd like one with more features and a zoom lens. After all, if I'm going to spend money on a fabulous vacation, I want good photos of it!

Home decor: I've bought all the major furniture I need, but there are still lots of little things I want. I have no area rugs in my bedrooms, my only window treatments are still those $5 stick-on paper shades, and I could use a couple more shelves for plants and things.

Clothes: this is an eternal problem. I always seem to need new ones, some years more than others. As usual, "need" is a relative term, but let's face it, no woman really wants to go around in jeans she can't button all the way just to save money! And after several years of scoffing at the ubiquity of fashionista clone-girls wearing Seven for All Mankind jeans, I tried on a pair belonging to a friend who wears the same size as me and suddenly understood what all the fuss was about! They fit like a dream and made me want to pinch my own butt when I walked past the mirror. But oh god it's going to hurt if I actually have to sign my name to a $175+ credit card receipt for a pair of those...

This is what it comes down to for people like me: you can't have it all. You can have a lot, but it will only ever be some of the things you want, even if your wants seem relatively modest by the standards of what you see around you. I'm trying to cut down on food spending, I've let a couple of magazine subscriptions expire, and I still refuse to buy a TV. But these little economies only go so far when you're trying to justify a few expensive luxuries. The budget isn't working. Something's gotta go.

20 comments:

Free From Broke said...

For clothes - if you haven't already you have to check out Century 21! That or Nordstrom off the Rack.

Digital Camera - B&H Photo. I just bought a DSLR there and their prices were better than everyone's!

Of course you don't have to buy these things but if you do you should do it as cheap as possible.

mcb said...

Try Loehmann's for the Seven jeans. Sometimes you can get them for over half off. As long as you keep saving, I see no problem spending too. Regrets suck.

Curtis said...

I've always had trouble having a budget as well for that very reason. What I've found that is working for me is the 60% budget. I've got a couple of posts about it on my blog. It is based on the concept used in MS Money. There is also a detailed story of it over at MSN Money on the web.

Basically, it has you break all expenses into 5 categories and stick to the total budget in those areas. 60% goes to committed expenses (bills, rent, etc) and then 10% each to Fun, Debt/LT Savings, Irregular Expenses, Retirement.

Fabulously Broke in the City said...

Darn it.. now I'll have to try those jeans too. I've been trying to find the perfect pair of jeans for years. I found a pair, and didn't buy a backup *smacks head* now that they're ripping and on their last threads... *sigh*

My budget has changed too, including a Travel section and Starbucks ;)

3beansalad said...

I feel similarly with clothes! I always hate what I have and in "need" of something new! I've recently been thinking about splurging for a pair of 7 jeans, too. I figure if I can wear and love them for 2 years it will be worth it, but honestly, when was the last time I wore and LOVED something fro 2 years? I'm by no means a fashionista, so why are clothes such an issue for me? I can't help but think it routes into something deeper-- like we all think we're not pretty enough so if we just had the right clothes...

mw said...

Definitely find the money to travel. You'll have memories and experiences and sense-awakenings to last a lifetime.

Can you ask for either a camera or laptop or both from someone for your b'day or other gift-giving holiday this year? Maybe your potential travel friend, who seems to have more financial resources, will get you a camera to take on the trip. :-)

As for the other "stuff" -- You can pick up nice-fitting jeans, shelves, rugs, window treatments, etc. at Goodwill or whatever passes for a decent thrift store in NYC. There must be many. (My jeans, which I love, are all from eBay.)

If you're fixated on a $175 brand, your tight budget is sort of doomed from the start ... The fixation on brands and having to have them to feel good is the reason a lot of budgets are endlessly broken. IMHO!

mw said...

If you know your size:
http://clothing.search.ebay.com/seven-for-all-mankind-jeans_Womens-Clothing

RacerX said...

On the computer side, think of it in ROI terms. Your time is worth x/per hour. The amount of time wasted due to a slow computer is why...It will at least make you feel better about buying one :)

Bionic Beauty said...

I've found 2 pairs of 7's at Off Saks (2 for the price of 1) and just yesterday 1 pair at Marshalls for $50. But if you go to thrift stores for jeans, be sure you know how to check for counterfeits (authenticforum.com is a good place to start for jeans - even Nordies has fakes sometimes). Or for a cheaper pair (since you fit Sevens) these might work for you too- iT jeans. They run about $60 and nice. But in all, 7's are certainly worth it. I was hesitant at first, but I hardly wear anything else now.

And save up for that new Mac! :)

SandyVoice said...

I'm in the market for a new Mac, for exactly your reason. Mine is seven years old, and really slow, especially using a music program, which is graphics heavy. RacerX is right that my time is valuable, and the old computer wastes my time. I had decided that my budget won't take a purchase that large until I pay off the credit cards on January 1, 2010, but CompUSA is going out of business, and everything is discounted. Right now, Apple computers are only 15% off, but if they get to 30%, and they still have the model I want, I may bite. The Apple website (probably also the websites of the various PC companies) also has reconditioned computers, often the current model which someone decided too late not to buy. But if I can't get a new (or reconditioned current model) computer for at least 30% off, I'm not breaking my budget this year! Just because I "need" it, doesn't mean I have to get it. I've worked too hard getting out of debt to get back in.

Not judging anyone else -- it's just me having gotten tired of bills I couldn't pay.

Anonymous said...

take the trip! travel will help your soul.

you can always find a deal on things you want. i found a 2007 imac for under $500 on craigslist loaded with software.

Escape Brooklyn said...

That's a good plan for your budget! I like the Gap "Long & Lean" jeans ($58), but I haven't tried the Seven jeans and probably won't so I'm not tempted!

My co-worker always says this: "You can buy anything you want but not everything you want." I think about it whenever I'm trying to make my budget work.

Then Things said...

You can always find all the brands of designer jeans for $75 or under at nordstrom rack, filenes basement, etc. The camera and laptop don't have to be expensive either, buy used or refurbished. I bought my monitor refurbished from apple so I had their return policy if something went wrong with it (as opposed to ebay or craigslist where you are probably SOL).

beth said...

If your hard drive is nearly full, that might be some of your blogger problems. For a short-term solution, you might want to consider getting an external hard drive and storing stuff there (I'm hoping to extend the use of my computer another two or three years using this method. My computer isn't that old, but apparently I require a lot of space both physically and technologically!)

Anonymous said...

Bronx Chica- yeah I'm looking into my budgeting for 2008. I did find that my company have certain discounts. So far they saved me from buying coffee and my cellphone bill.

Chicago Rob said...

We work for a reason - to enjoy life. As long as you are saving and are not in debt, a pair of jeans is completely reasonable.

I found a pair of 7 mens jeans at a store called Crossroads in Chicago - one of those resale shops, for $35. Great condition too. Like them a lot, but admittedly, I like my Levi's better. Try Macy's or a Levi's store - some of the higher end Levi's are half the price of the 7's but fit me as well. I can live without the logo.

And, if possible, I would do window treatments before a new PC. Window treatments will add value to your condo, but a PC depreciates immediately.

Anonymous said...

I am struggling with the exact same budget dilemma...I have a pricey trip I am trying to work into the budget. I love to travel and make it a priority, and I think I've got the budget figured out. I'll have to reduce some normal long weekend trips and reduce eating out (I've been brown bagging lunch for a couple of months now and already am seeing reduced expenses in the food category). I'll have to wait until March (when our bonuses are paid out) to make sure I can afford the trip plus meet all my savings goals for the year, but I'm hopeful so far. Good luck to you, I hope you get it figured out!

Elizabeth said...

My son-in-law was here for Christmas and he and The Husband were talking computers. I've convinced The Husband to make "the switch" since he won't touch Vista with a 100' pole. The SIL says that Apple's coming out with a new flash-based laptop later this month and guesses that the "older" models might go on sale when the new ones hit the shelves. We're keeping our eyes open and are ready to pounce when it happens.

Anonymous said...

Here is an idea that has really worked well for me:

I have SlickDeals.com in my RSS feeder. Every day, there are dozens of great deals posted and it covers everything - clothes, electronics, kitcheware, etc. Amazon, Best Buy, Macy's, Cooking.com, LL Bean, you name it!

Checking in with this feed daily has been great for these reasons:
1. So many amazing deals are out there that you start to feel like an idiot for ever paying retail price.

2. You realize that if you aren't able to get that new digi cam NOW, deals will come again. And again. And again. One sale won't be the only sale.

Specifically if you're looking for cameras and laptops, this is truly a good thing to try out.

Good luck!

3beansalad said...

While your blog typically inspires me to SAVE money, this post just planted the seed on how a pair of 7 jeans just might solve all my wardrobe woes! A week later from your post and I'm now the proud owner of a pair of Joe's Jeans (equally as overpriced as 7's, but dang my butt looks good!)