Sunday, August 28, 2016

Keeping track of money - how I (attempt to) do it

I did really well at tracking all of my spending in the first two weeks of August. Then came the week of summer school and I completely and totally forgot to even think about it. I very nearly gave up then but once I got back from Dusseldorf I actually sat down to see what I could recreate. Whenever I have tracked before it has never quite matched up anyway and, to be honest, I've rarely managed to keep it up for an entire month. Rather than just deciding it didn't matter, I've now added another field into my spreadsheet to try and figure out exactly what the discrepancy is and account for it as best I can. My budget spreadsheet runs from Fridays to Thursdays and luckily enough 1st September is a Thursday so the mis-match between the end of the month and the end of my budget month is only one day. I can manage to not spend any money for a day, or at least to use my credit card if I need to get some groceries.

Some general notes: My aim in setting up the tracking portion for cash spending on my spreadsheet was to see what percentage of income I was spending on certain categories. So I have a cash section and a banking section, for what of a better word. The banking section is divided into the following sections:
  1. Rent
  2. Private pension/investments
  3. Various charities
  4. Transfer to Irish account
  5. Basic income supporter (see here for details - I've just started contributing €6/month to this)
  6. Annual expenses (incl. holiday savings)
  7. Transport
  8. Other house related
  9. Dental insurance
  10. Visa (my old Irish credit card)
  11. Phone/internet
  12. Mastercard (my German points-earning credit card)
  13. Misc. (food etc.) - cash
  14. Misc. (food etc.) - debit card
  15. Bills (not including phone)
  16. Tax account
  17. Bank charges
  18. One-off out
  19. One-off in
It's a little bit of a muddle as it has evolved to this over the years but since I'm the only one who has to understand it, that's ok. Some items, for example, visa, really don't need to be there anymore as I only use that visa card as the holding card for the deposit when I rent a car. Not quite ready to give up the card though (want to have €4,000 in savings first, as that's the limit on that card) so here it stays for now.

Private pension/investments: At the moment I'm still just contributing a very small amount to my private pension. I reduced it once I knew I was going to be on unemployment for a while and since I now have some debt, I won't increase it again until I'm a bit more secure, if at all. It's mostly a tax efficicency vehicle so I'll see what my accountant has to say about it next year. I added a field for investments as I wanted to start at least investing a small amount into an ETF fund but still haven't gotten around to setting that up.

Phone/internet at the moment just covers the landline and internet as the topping-up of my current mobile phone happens online and I use my mastercard for that.

Bills is generally just the gas and electricity, although in my new place I don't have a gas bill.

At the moment one-off in includes the income from my translation work and I'm happy enough with that. To the side of my main spreadsheet I have a small box to list the one-off things happening in any month and those numbers feed in here. So at the start of a month I check if any annual or quarterly bills will be due, note if I'll need money for a particular trip or gift and so on. I don't add one-off income until if has actually hit my bank account. Trying to keep it as real as possible. I also use this category to account for any money that I transfer from savings to my current account in order to, for example, pay for annual expenses. Basically this spreadsheet is focused on my current account, in case that wasn't already clear.

In an ideal world, and if I was better at tracking (and accounting, come to think of it), the amounts for misc. cash and misc. debit card would equal the amounts that I track in the daily cash portion of my spreadsheet. As I do sometimes use my mastercard for these expenses however, things were always a bit skewy. So I've now added the mastercard amount to the reconciliation for that portion, as well as including mastercard expenses in the tracking. Much better.

The only thing is that the billing period for the mastercard is different than everything else and I can't change it. So, since it runs from around 10th to 10th (sometimes 9th or 11th, depending on weekends), I track any spending on that card after the bill has been isssued in the following month's numbers. It means I'm not really tracking one month in one place but it's the least complicated way I've come up with, at least for me. I must stress that my spreadsheet is generally focused on helping me to not overspend and to get control of my debt. If I ever move fully into needing something to figure out more than that, well, this should be a good basis for it I think.

The cash section of my spreadsheet is divided into the following categories:
  1. Transport 
  2. Food - necessities
  3. Food - luxuries
  4. Canteen food
  5. Toiletries
  6. Gifts (incl. postage, card and wrapping)
  7. Clothes
  8. House/garden
  9. Medical
  10. Other (lotto, etc.)
So the idea is that every day, I add in whatever I have spent in cash, debit card or mastercard. And all of that should add up to the amounts for these in the banking portion of the spreadsheet. I track a daily and a grand total for these items. At the moment, I have a €79 discrepancy between those two totals and am only certain of the reason for €50 of that. But, I didn't count the money in my purse at the end of last month and am not certain I managed to remember absolutely everything spent during the week I forgot to track so hopefully in future this will be less of an issue.

For all of the above categories, both from the banking section and the cash section, I also have space in my spreadsheet to show me what percentage of income each one is. Of course, everything all together should give me 100% but that has never happened. So it's more of a general guideline really. Not sure if it's my spreadshset or my tracking that leads to difficulties but for now, it's close enough for me. 

So, that grew to be a much longer post than I had planned on. I'll post actual numbers on Thursday when I know exactly how it has shaped up. So far it's telling me that I've spent (or will spend, as non-cleared items are already included in the totals) 91.36% of my income. 

If anyone has any questions about any of that, let me know and I'll try to explain. There are lots of ways I could improve this spreadsheet (starting over from scratch perhaps) but it works pretty well for me so I'll stick with it for another while.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday randomness

  • Have a vague feeling at the moment that I really want to get back to blogging regularly but don't really feel like I can be bothered putting the effort into composing posts. Which makes it sounds like I do put effort in normally, which isn't really the case. I normally just sit down and start typing. And while sometimes I do manage to take and post photos, not having any doesn't really ever hold me back either. I'm just in kind of a funny place as far as writing is concerned in general I think. Still toying with the idea of trying to write a romance novel, ideas of maybe digging out the chapters I wrote for the 3-day-novel contest a few years ago and working on that have started surfacing and I still think about actually trying to write properly researched essay-type things for the blog or just for myself sometimes. I think working in a college environment now is simultaneously inspiring and intimidating me, leading to a kind of paralysis. That's not the right word really, though. It's more like I feel somehow stifled. It's all a bit strange. 
  • After a week or two where it seemed like the weather was cooling down and I had started to look forward to long autumnal walks it has gotten hot again. Heading for 35 degrees every day over the last few days. So today I decided I wasn't even going to pretend that I'd do anything or go anywhere. I closed the shutter on the east side of my apartment this morning and have only just re-opened it. And then once the sun started making its way around to the other side I closed the windows and the shutters. I know it's worth it, even though it seems a pity to shut out the light. Just can't handle it at the moment. 
  • Having decided to not do anything at all today I did of cousre then get up and make myself a lovely brunch. Onions and tomatoes sauteed with a splash of balsamic vinegar, then a tin of tuna and three eggs added to make a very tasty omelette. Or at least it would have been an omelette if it hadn't all fallen apart. 
  • And then for good measure I actually cut up the beef I bought the other day and prepared the marinade for the stir-fry dish I saw on 59 pounds to go. At nearly 13 euro!!! for enough for two people (albeit generous portions), I'm reminded of why I really quite rarely buy meat. And that was the cheaper of the cuts. So yep, reminded again of why I don't buy a lot of meat and why most of what I do buy is cheaper cuts for slow-cooking. And particularly glad that I didn't end up wasting the beef just 'cos it got too hot for cooking again. It's marinating in the fridge now and if I don't do it this evening, it'll still be fine for tomorrow. I have frozen beans and broccoli so apart from chopping up a couple of carrots and some onion, it'll be a minimal effort meal. I'm not even going to bother making rice, it really is too hot so I'll just pile on the veggies and enjoy it like that. 
  • I've almost made it to the end of the month without spending a whole pile more than intended. Won't quite end the month without needing to pull a small amount from savings but that's because I forgot about the letter I know was going to arrive from the social welfare. Have to repay 320 euro from May (my last month of dole money) as I earned quite a bit in translation work that month. So if I don't spend anything for the next week I'll need to pull 60 from savings to pay that. It has left things tight the past week but I'm still glad I decided to just live with things being a bit tight for a week or two rather than pulling the whole lot from savings. I was paid for one big job I did at the end of June (new client and it took a while for me to be added to their database as a creditor) as well as a couple of other outstanding invoices and most of that money went straight to savings. I'm really trying to be conscientous about putting money aside for tax and will have a few more big annual bills to pay in September. And I'm trying to knock down the overdraft on my Irish account finally. Even if I only manage to pay 50 a month to that I really need to see it going down. 
  • July and August brought almost no translation work so I will need to be careful to take account of that in the coming years. There are some industries that basically go on holidays for those two months in summer and translations seems to be one of them. I was starting to get really worried as I don't have any other outstanding invoices (except one, which it looks like I'm going to have to start down the legal route to try and recover) and I wasn't sure how I was going to come up with the money I need on top of my day-job salary to cover my expenses. And then on Tuesday I had two separate queries from potential new clients. One, I am happy to say, confirmed on Thursday that I had gotten the job and it'll be enough to cover the gap between salary and expenses for two months so that creates a bit of breathing space. The other was for an agency that wasn't offering a lot of money and I was in two minds about it as it would be a guaranteed three-years of continuing jobs for one particular client so even at a very low rate, it might be just what I need to keep things going. However, after two emails they haven't responded to the rest of my questions so I think I'm going to take it as a sign that I may be better off without that agency. They've also been banned from one of the big translator websites, which probably isn't a good sign anyway. 
  • On the day-job front, there is a posting up for another half-day job in the university but it seems like it's for a permanent position. I'm in two minds as to whether to apply for it or not but I think I will go for it. If I did manage to get offered the position, I don't have to say yes. I don't really want to go back to working full time at the moment (full time and then some, if translating picks up again) but I think I would feel much better with the security of a permanent position. My boss is definitely working on trying to get our program funded long-term, bringing with it the possibility of a permanent or at least far longer contract than I have now but these things work very slowly. And of course he's on holidays at the moment so I can't even check in and find out how all of that is going. So I think I'll apply for it and then see what happens. It would scupper the possibility of increasing my hours to 75% at the current job, too, probably. Unless the new professor was willing to allow the 50% job to be shared among two. 
  • There was a bird on my balcony railing for more than two hours earlier. I was worried it was injured but it didn't seem to be. I put some water out but I don't think it touched it. It has gone now so I hope it is alright and just needed a long rest.
  • I've used the excuse of too much work and stress due to the summer school we held a week ago to eat far too many sweets and crisps. I think I've finished absolutely everything that's in the house now, though, so I may try the blood sugar diet again for a couple of weeks before going back to fasting properly. I've fasted for shorter periods on and off over the last few weeks of craziness and still find it remarkable how much better I feel when I manage to do it. I'm going to do a variation of the blood sugar diet though. Thinking about it I realised that one thing that kind of holds me back is using fats in cooking, or rather having to count the caloires of those fats. So, I think I'll do 800 calories plus oils/butter. I don't use a huge amont anyway and I think it's a restriction that was having more of an impact on my mind than I realised. Even if I'm going above 800 calories on most days, it will still be enough to be losing weight. 
  • For years and years, ever since blogger introduced stats as a standard thing for people to see, I've checked on mine on and off. And for years and years, it was pretty normal for this blog to receive about 50 hits a day. I think about 15 of these were actual regular readers and the rest mostly as a result of google searches. Haven't ever really tried to do anything to increase readership or stats in any way and am perfectly happy with that. It gave me a bit of a thrill in April 2013 when I participated in the A-Z of blogging and saw a spike in numbers for that month but not so much of a thrill that I'd ever really be bothered chasing them again if you know what I mean. Still, it wsa nice to know that someone was reading. Since May this year I think I've been found by some kind of bot though. I now have bewteen 500 and 1,000 hits every single day. For absolutely no reason. And with no-one new commmenting, I think my impression of "fake" hits probably isn't too far off. It's mildly irritating as it means my stats are now completely meaningless.

  • And finally, I bought a new red sheet a while ago and just before leaving for summer school I put it on the bed for the first time. Was worried about it looking a bit bordello-like but it's actually just really cheerful and I love it. Best impulse purchase for a long time.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A rant that became two

I'm at a week-long residential summer school at the moment. Since I'm one of the organisers that means that while workshops are going on, I just have to hang around and since the wifi seems to be cooperating today, I was going to use the chance to blog about something I really need to vent about. But google won't let me log on to blogger from my laptop unless I use my smartphone to confirm my identity. I have always declined their suggestions to link account with smartphone (for a few different reasons, one of which, I will admit, is no, I don't want you to have all of my contact information). But even though I went through their other option of answering questions and waiting for a code to be emailed to me, they still won't let me log in because they were "ubable to identify me". Such a joke and after ten years, I'm really not happy with that. So now I'm having to type this on my smartphone (ha!), which is always a pain, too.

My original rant was about people getting together to buy presents and casually assuming that everyone can drop fifty quid on a present on a few days notice. Have two separate groups at the moment, for two events where we were specifically asked not to give presents. One a wedding where the couple asked for donations to a particular charity. I find it beyond stressfull to then have to go through a week of dozens of group messages to gather money for a present after all. Especially in view of the fact that they all know I've just moved and am not working full-time at the moment. Sorry, my budget is set way more in advance than just a week. Which is why I have money to travel back to Dusseldorf for these parties, have a small amount set aside to donate, and some candles from my stash as a token house-warming/thanks-for-letting-me-stay present for the other friend who has said more than once that she doesn't want anything. And don't have nearly a hundred quid lying around to contribute to group presents! It all just makes me want to stay at home. And to be truthful, it makes me a bit sad that the whole thing is making me glad that I moved away from this crowd and can now slowly let the contact drop.

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Home-fixed phone cover

When I got my smartphone a couple of years ago I didn't buy the very pricey leather case on offer in the shop I bought it in, instead choosing to go into a shop just down the road selling nothing but phone cases and getting one there. I paid 9.90, which I think was about the cheapest one there and, given that the one I had left behind in the other shop cost closer to 40, I was happy enough with it.

Look closely and you can see the indents where the diamante
used to be

Even if it was covered in little diamante yokes.

It didn't take me long to pry them all off. It has since seen a lot of wear and tear and at the networking events I attended at the start of July, I actually felt very self-conscious about leaving it on the desk in front of me. I had already been thinking I should look for a new cover and that made my mind up.

I'm not terribly concerned with image but I know many people are and since I'm now also running my own business and using networking events like that to try and make new contacts and maybe get some new customers, I do feel like I need to make at least a small effort.

For whatever reason, I kept putting off and forgetting to look for a new cover but next week I will be attending the summer school I have been organising in my new day job and, even though academia is turning out to be way more casual than my previous work life, I thought it was really time to finally get something.

And then it occurred to me that since I'm broke, maybe I could try and cobble together something at home first. If it didn't work out, I could just buy one anyway and if it did work out, I'd have saved a little bit. So I dragged some material out of my stash (a patchwork material that I bought as a remnant years and years ago) and found the craft glue that I bought to make a fancy album for my sister's wedding. She has just celebrated her 10th anniversary but thankfully the glue still works.

A little bit of cutting and glueing and I just about managed to get something that might not be very office-professional looking but at least is a bit less ragged and dirty looking.
I even managed to cut a hole for the camera and flash

And I remembered to do the magnetic clasp bit
I didn't spend a huge amount of time on it, as I had ironing to do. Finally managed to figure out how to put on the new cover I bought and badly needed to iron some clothes to bring to the summer school. So there is one tiny part wher I didn't quite manage to get the material quite right but for the most part, it's fine. Nor is it all finished and pretty looking from the inside. But again, it's fine.

So, it may not be the sleek leather most professionals might go for, but I think it's got a kind of cool, funky vibe that I'm not at all averse to. And maybe one day I'll use the rest of that material to finally make myself that skirt that I originally envisaged. This is enough for now. And now I'm all inspired to make another one or two covers - if I used some elastic I could perhaps make them similar to fitted bedsheets so I could swap them out depending on my mood.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are | Amy Cuddy | TED Talks

I heard about the idea of the Wonder Woman stance on the Mr. Money Mustache forum the other day and went looking for the TED talk referenced. Think this is it and it is really interesting. I have always been amazed at how the "fake it till you make it" idea works and honestly don't use it for long periods of time because, like so many things, I just forget.

I think that it would be very useful to try and keep these power poses in mind and I will be trying to use them in the future. The science behind it, particularly the sinking of cortisol, is very interesting. Although, let's be honest, it's the Wonder Woman stance I'll be trying the most. And I am definitely planning on making myself some bright blue knickers with gold stars on them to keep as my special interview knickers, too.