29 January 2015

Alaskan windshields and budgeting software

When it's -36 F and you're driving 40 miles per hour, your windshield is effectively being blasted with -96 F air. Assuming that your heater works, the inside of the windshield is exposed to air more than 150 degrees warmer. And when a rock flies up and hits your windshield under conditions like that, the windshield pretty much splits straight across.

Because we didn't have enough bills right now, I guess?

It's not quite high enough to interfere with the driver's vision, so it looks like we'll be sporting a "classic Alaskan" windshield for a while because there's already a list of things we've been waiting until February to buy; semi-essentials like food, a heater, a toilet seat...

So, budgeting. It's not that we don't have a budget, or that we don't try to stick to it, or that we're in anything resembling "dire straits." I'm kind of proud of being able to be creative and use what we have to avoid buying groceries for the last week of the month; it's not exactly something that I'm hoping will change. We last updated our budget when Little Bear wasn't eating solid food and we were in a different house, though, so it's just time to reevaluate. In a way, revising the budget finally made it onto my to-do list this week (as opposed to earlier) because we've been relying on budgeting software; when we were first married, I tracked all of our income and expenses manually, but eventually we switched to Mint, by Intuit.

Mint is a great system, don't get me wrong. It's generally worked well for us to track where all of our money's going. We are both pretty good about not spending money on unnecessary things, though, so I don't often wind up checking how we're doing in any categories other than Food & Drink—how are we doing on groceries this month? can we afford to eat out? etc. And in December and January, Mint said that we were doing a great job on that part of the budget.

It wasn't until I sat down last weekend to reevaluate our charitable giving for the new year that I realized Mint had been filing one of the two grocery stores I shop at as "Charity" for the last couple of months. Oops... Suddenly, we weren't doing very well on groceries or giving.

It's my possibly unrealistic goal, given the date, to have a revised budget in place by February. We'll see. The charities budget, at least, is fixed already; I made a chart of groups and amounts to make sure that we're giving enough, so now I'll be building the rest of the budget around those numbers instead of starting with our material needs/wants and hoping there's enough left over. A little (okay, a lot) more intimidating than starting with numbers like rent and electric as the first nonnegotiables, but it's probably a better way to organize things, isn't it?

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