Ok, so even spending willy nilly didn't put me in the red.
On the contrary, I am well in the black.
But, I went over budget in the same old categories, so I'm not going to go in detail there because you've read it dozens of times before (groceries and clothes, specifically), but, honestly, in many categories I either came in right at budget, or just a few dollars over.
More importantly, I've spent a lot of time in the last few days figuring out my game plane for July and the rest of 2008.
First, an announcement -- I have a POSITIVE net worth! If you include my car, savings, checking, and 401k, my net worth is $16,100. Imagine that! That's $26,000 swing up from where I was a year ago!
Now for the start of my rest-of-the-year plan:
1. Pay myself first. I'm actually going to do this now. I have budgeted for saving 10% of my income. Some of it will go into my 401k at work, while the rest will be cash savings dedicated to building my emergency fund, which, right now, is $3,200! I plan to have this money taken directly from my paycheck, rather than transferring it myself from checking to hi-yield savings (or set up an automatic transfer). I'm hoping "out of sight, out of mind" will apply here!
2. Adjust taxes and savings. The IRS isn't totally useless. I used IRS.gov to figure out just how much I should owe the gub'ment for this year. The form was easy to use (have your tax return and a recent pay stub available) and it told me just how much I should owe and how to adjust my withholdings to stop me from overpaying.
According to the site, I was going to overpay my taxes this year by $1,000. Instead, I could adjust my withholdings so that I would overpay just about $200 (anything more and I would wind up owing the Feds).
So, I changed my withholdings to the suggested figure. The money that I will keep in my check is going straight into my 401k, PRE-TAX. So, I'll be saving more in my 401k AND lowering my tax liability at the same time.
3. Create a $0 balance budget. In other words, rather
than only budgeting for some things, I budgeted for just about
everything. I kept it simple for now -- I took a 6-month average of my
spending on everything I recorded in my spreadsheet (right down to
postage stamps and library late fees). I used that to budget for all
the categories in my spreadsheet. Even "miscellaneous" has a limit.
Right now, that balance isn't exactly zero, it's more like $30.
Honestly, I have long been afraid to account for every last penny like this. I thought it wiser (and it made me feel safer) to have a considerable amount of cash left over after accounting for bills and essentials. But, that makes little sense, because I was often fooled into thinking I had more cash available than I actually did, thus spending it, when it was really covering something else.
Those are the three big things. The next few thing I want to investigate is a higher-yield saving method for my emergency account. I was thinking about I Bonds, which I read about at the Motley Fool. But, I need to do some more research.