Sunday, September 19, 2010

Spread sheets are becoming my life

My new hobby seems to be crunching numbers. I am learning how to prepare, and stick to, a personal budget. I seem to spend a lot of my evening and weekend hours working on spreadsheets and doing math.

Some days I am looking for ways to pay off my debt as quickly as possible. Other days I am looking at the numbers to make sure my budget is practical and something I can live with for the foreseeable future.

I am fairly confident that I can pay the rent, keep the lights on and feed myself while paying on the debt each month. But the numbers are going to change going into fall. I know the utilities are going to start costing more. I have no air conditioning, so the summer bills are always the lowest of the year. But fewer hours of daylight and colder temperatures will require more electricity usage. That may mean there is less money to contribute to my debt snowball each month. But I think it can be done.

As I've mentioned here before, I've been using the Dave Ramsey baby steps as my guide to getting out of debt. But I have not fully followed all of his principles. For example, he tells people to quit putting money into retirement until they get out of debt and he also suggests using envelopes to keep track of funds for things like groceries, clothing, and other expenses that can tend to fluctuate, or where people can tend to overspend.

I have not adopted the envelope system. Nor have I stopped contributing to my 401(k) account. But I've been given both much more serious consideration. I think I may very well use envelopes to allocate my grocery and car and miscellaneous expenses. While I don't have much wiggle room in the budget each month, the few dollars I do have that are somewhat discretionary always seem to get spent, and that doesn't leave any money in the bank for things like oil changes or clothes, and those are things that will need to get addressed soon.

I have also been looking into whether it makes any sense to quit contributing to the retirement account where I work. I'm having trouble finding out just exactly home much more money I would take home each month. The best estimate I was given tells me it would not make enough of a difference to just reduce my contribution to the level at which my employer matches. I may be able to pay off my debt about 6 months faster if I stop contributing completely. But it will still probably take me 3 years to get out of debt without some extra income. So losing three years of retirement contributions and employer match scares me.

Right now, I'm not inclined to do that. But I've given it far more serious consideration than I ever thought I would. Maybe when I a few of my small debts paid and get making more progress it would make more sense to do that for a short period of time. But for now, I think I will wait. And keep on working my plan, even if it does not fit perfectly with Dave Ramsey's advice.

1 comment:

Gene said...

Absolutely do not stop contributing to your retirement fund.

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