Crafted Our Christmas Budget

Mrs. Beagle and I sat down a couple of weeks ago and came up with our preliminary Christmas budget.

This year, as part of our ongoing effort to ‘level’ as many expenses as possible, we started saving for Christmas gifts back in January.  We’ve contributed an equal amount every month, and therefore will not have to do any scrambling to ensure that everything gets paid off.

Now that we had the amount available to us, it was actually kind of fun to sit down and come up with the budget.  We listed out everybody that we needed to buy for and started putting amounts that we wanted to spend.   We did some tweaking, but actually came within our budget on the second pass!

We had to make some cuts, which we had talked about way in advance.  Most of the cuts are in what Mrs. Beagle and I purchase for each other.   We looked back and laughed at how extravagent we were back a few years ago before we got married.  Back then, I lived in a smaller condo, she lived with her parents, we both had jobs, and there was no Baby Beagle expenses.  So, we had a lot more disposable income and we spent quite a bit.

Now, we’ve cut that back significantly, but we’re both totally fine with that.  We now spend a lot of time looking for deals to get the most ‘bang for our buck’, so it really looks like we have gotten each other more.  Plus, this year, our greatest gift is the priceless one that was born back in May, when Baby Beagle was born!  There’s no greater gift than to watch your baby grow!

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Net Worth Review: November 2009

Last month was a pretty good month.

The biggest thing that happened, which drastically accounted for some shifting, was that I sold my old car and we purchased a newer SUV from my parents.  As a result, our cash holdings went down (which is OK, since I had earmarked money specifically for the purchase of a car) and our value of automobiles went up.  The value of the autos went up more than cash went because I had ‘written off’ a portion of the earmarked cash.  When I originally started saving, I thought we might possibly purchase a ‘new’ car, which usually sees a big chunk of depreciation the moment you drive it off the lot.

Assets:

  •  Property – Zillow estimated the price of our house to have fallen a few hundred dollars, but this is pretty much unchanged.
  • Autos – This went up significantly because the car we purchased is worth more than the car we sold.
  • Investment Accounts – The market was pretty choppy but ended up pretty flat.  Our investment holdings went up just under 1% in value.  Not a lot, but no complaints since up is better than down!
  • Cash – As mentioned, this dropped because of the purchase of a more expensive car.
  • Retirement – Our retirement account went up due to contributions plus the small market gains.

Debt:

  • Property – We made our standard mortgage payment
  • Student loans – Minimum payments here for the month as has been the usual lately.
  • Credit cards – We don’t carry a balance, so this is just what’s accrued on the card since we last paid the bill.  Because this varies and makes things look worse, I’m thinking of eliminating this, and tracking it by lowering our ‘cash’ by the amount we currently owe.  This would make for much smaller month-to-month swings
  • Auto – This stayed at zero as we were able to pay cash for the car.  That’s the first time I’ve ever been able to do so!  I do have to be honest, and admit that my parents did give us a ‘deal’ on the car, but either way, we had planned all along to pay cash for the car, and I’m very glad that we were able to meet this goal and avoid any new debt.

Overall, our net worth went up around 3.3% for the month.  We are at another new ‘All Time High’ when you remove the impact of the property (both on the asset and debt side).  We are also at an ‘All Time High’ for retirement savings.  Woo hoo!

I think I need to check my Excel formulas, because I would think that since I reduced the value of our asset, that the change in Net Worth Including Property should be lower than the Net Worth Excluding Property, but it’s the other way around.  Hmmmm……

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When Good Deals Go Bad! Massive Price Increase On Costco / Kirkland Diapers!

My wife and I went to Costco last month planning to purchase some diapers.  We’ve been Costco members for a couple of years, and were just recently blessed with the opportunity to purchase diapers.  We’ve been impressed with the price benefit that the Kirkland Signature brand (Costco’s store brand) had offered on many products in the past.  We’d also heard many great things about their prices on diapers, so we decided to take a look.

I was shocked when I found that their unit price per diaper was, for just about every size, higher than the national brand (Huggies) that they sell.

I did some digging and found that they’ve recently raised prices on their diapers.  From the historical prices that I’ve been able to dig up, it looks like the prices have gone up anywhere from 26% to 33% across the board.  This chart speaks for itself:

Really, Costco?  For a store that prides itself on value, especially for the Kirkland product line, this is shocking.  My family and I have become more and more trusting of Costco, and the Kirkland line, and this is a good way to erase a good portion of that trust in one fell swoop.

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Review of October 2009 Goals / Setting November’s Goals

Here’s the goals I set for October.  With the month drawing to a close, let’s see how things went:

  1. Get back on the treadmill – I still haven’t gotten up to my full 5-day-per-week routine, mostly because of a cold I had earlier in the month, and some foot issues that arose after failing to ‘ease into things’ properly once back on, but I’m on three times a week, and I’m happy with that, enough to call it a success.
  2. Sell a car / buy a car – Well, I’m happy to report that this afternoon, I sold my car!  I actually did make it happen through Craigslist, despite all my complaining.  The person actually turned out to be a very nice lady, and her and I hit it off from the first exchange of e-mails.  Just as I’d been frustrated with the selling side, she’d been frustrated with trying to buy a car, having found some lemons and people that seemed less than trustworthy.  So, both her and I consider ourselves very lucky.  Though I don’t have the new car yet, it’s all lined up for Monday, so I’m considering this one a success.
  3. Winterize around the house – I never got to this, but am moving it to the next month.  I actually read a cool news clipping about how you can use incense to determine leaky spots, so I’m planning on incorporating this tip, and I’d also like to wash the blinds when doing this, so the scope of the project has been reset.
  4. Donate – Since we never got the bigger car, this didn’t happen.  But it will before I get my garage re-organized for the winter.
  5. Figure out our Netflix plan – We haven’t made it over to the library but I will be by sometime soon as I have a book on hold that I’ve been anxious to read.  We’ve actually been pretty busy, so the low movie plan has worked out perfect, plus some good stuff has shown up on the On Demand section of the DVR, so although we didn’t achieve this, so far there’s no impact.

November Goals

  1. Winterize – See above or last month
  2. Donate – See above or last month
  3. Figure out our Netflix plan – Also carried over from last month
  4. Finalize our Christmas budget – Most of this is done, but we need to finalize it
  5. Get a head start on Christmas shopping – Things just seem to move faster when you have a kid, so I’d like to be over 50% done with our shopping by the end of the month.  Let’s see how it goes
  6. Enjoy the holidays – Can you believe that the holidays will be in full swing in a month?  
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