No. of Recommendations: 10
Last update was after the return from Japan:

Sigh... this month was a winner in not-fun sweepstakes to date. Besides it just plain being February (I live in the NE and hate winter), my irregular expenses ended up being at least three times what I usually set aside per month. A dentist visit not covered by insurance, the car needed $500 in surprise repairs, the basement flooded three times, $300 in semi-regular professional expenses that showed up months earlier than usual... you name it, it came knocking on my door and wanted to set up residence on my credit card. I spent a LOT of time fiddling with YNAB this month.

The good news: with a little help from a larger-than-expected tax refund*, I made it through the month largely unscathed. The freedom fund is bloody but unbowed, the e-fund is only slightly dented, I ended the month with no new debt, and didn't have to touch the snowball. March will be a little tight, but manageable. In the past, I'm sure a month like this one would have ended up adding to my long-term debt, so I guess that's a victory.

*A surprise to me... I thought I had reduced my withholding as far as I safely could, and even thought I might owe the Fed some money. Instead, it turned out that my deductions (which vary quite a bit from year to year) came in higher than anticipated, so, nice refund. I'd rather have a pleasant surprise than an unpleasant surprise, so that was A-OK with me.

The other good news was that with the help of the tax refund, I was finally able to graduate to living on last month's income, which is Rule 1 of YNAB. Since I was already reserving the last paycheck of the month for the following month, I only needed to set up a buffer equal to one biweekly check... something I didn't realize until I was looking at the numbers this month. I didn't expect to be going to Rule 1 anytime soon, so that was a nice surprise. It means about $1600 won't be earning interest in ING, but the freedom to set up all my monthly payments on the first of the month more than makes up for the $3/mo of interest lost.

It feels great to throw my whole snowball at Chase three weeks earlier than usual. Because of Rule 1, this month's report basically covers two months' worth of savings and credit card paydown (end of Feb + beginning of March)... next month I'll be back to reporting a month at a time.

On to the balances:

Jan 31 March 1 Diff
========= ======== =======
Chase 11,327 10,264 -1063

Jan 31 March 1 Diff
======== ========= =========
Savings* 300 0 -300
Checking Buffer 200 1623 +1423
Freedom Acct 384 615 +231
Efund 2390 2206 -184

Net Worth change for Feb = +2206

*I closed out the savings account and transferred the balance to checking; basically; it ended up going toward this month's irregular expenses. With a larger buffer in checking, I decided that it was pointless to maintain the brick and mortar savings account. It wasn't earning any interest to speak of (last month I earned a big nickel) and was adding to my administrative headaches.

The other happy thing to report is that come April 1, if all goes well, I'll be under 10K! *confetti* I haven't been under 10K since... *shudder* 1999. Seriously. I thought I had gotten just below 10K a couple times since then, but if you count the balances I would run up and pretend I was going to pay off within a few weeks... I wasn't. (Sometimes I did pay those balances down promptly, but sometimes I didn't.) Now I always pay off every credit card except my snowball target at the end of the month for exactly that reason.

Looking back at this month's report, I can see that I'm making decent progress, but I'm still grumpy and cranky about money a lot of the time. I think I'm going through what Tamarian described as the whiny brat stage ( I want to spend fun money, and the budget keeps telling me I can't. I WANT to spend some of my tax return on a Wii, but I want that Rule 1 buffer in my checking account more. Grumble, grumble, sulk. Guess I have a ways to go before I make it to Grateful Abundance. (Tamarian's whole Get-Out-of-Debt saga is fabulous, but I find this one perhaps the most powerful of the lot. I reread it frequently... wish I could internalize it.)
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