Managing Our Spending With Big Ticket Item List

My wife and I are slowly getting adjusted to our single income status. Given our life situation with a new house and baby on the way, there are plenty of wants and needs for us to go around. One way we have started to manage these is focusing on identifying the big ticket items - that is anything that is over $100 or so.

Our Current Big Ticket Wish List

Estimate

Emergency Fund

$10,000.00

King Bed

$ 800.00

Wedding Album

$ 898.00

Glider

$ 400.00

Carpet for Bedroom

$ 650.00

Fund 529 Plan

$ 4,000.00

Media Center PC

$ 400.00

Replacement Car

$16,000.00

Tree Removal At Rental Property #1

$ 500.00

Vacation in 2010

$ 950.00


We now have a list of these big ticket items we are tracking. We are managing our monthly cash flow so that we can allocated ~$500 towards these items. We have already prioritized these items through lots of talking and tried to allocate something to every month of the year. If something unexpected pops up (like our recent car purchase) then we may have to shift things around to account for it. Big items like rebuilidng our emergency fund are spread across many months and intermingled among other important purchases for us.

Take a look at our 2009 Monthly Big Ticket Allocation List (at this point):

Month

Big Ticket Item

Jan-09

Timing Belt Replacement (car)

Feb-09

Glider Rocker

Mar-09

Wedding Album

Apr-09

Emergency Fund

May-09

New Carpet for Bedroom

Jun-09

Emergency Fund

Jul-09

Wedding Album

Aug-09

Emergency Fund

Sep-09

Emergency Fund

Oct-09

UnAllocated Purchase

Nov-09

Emergency Fund

Dec-09

Christmas Presents

The gain for us is this exercise manages our spending on big ticket items to be more inline with our cash flow. However, depending on how bad we want/need something the wait can be agonizingly slow.

The key for me is we recognize this list will never disappear - once things get scratch off, new spending priorities emerge. By making a concious decision to allocate a certain amount of monthly cash to it allows us to logically determine how important things are to us and managing things in a maintainble form. If the list gets too backed up we may need to think about how we free monthly cash flow to it, but I hope we can continue to manage our big spending wants/needs to 6-8 purchases per year.

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Comments (10)


I like what you are doing but have one question. If you have $34000 in cash and savings, why not shift some of that savings into an "emergency fund" , what is the difference.

I also take a Pareto-like approach to my spending. I'm a big-picture guy, and focus on the larger expenses, too.

Hi 2million,

I've seen some of your blog postings before and just wanted to say I think its awesome that you place a high level of importance on your emergency fund and have been for some time.

As a representative from State Farm, we often recommend that our policy holders integrate insurance considerations into their overall budget plan, especially now more than ever as the economy continues to fluctuate.

Another thing I wanted to suggest is using a financial calculator when assessing your own finances as a great way to chart out where your money goes each month and how that will impact your situation.

There are a lot of different calculators out there but one I've found helpful and comprehensive is available from Kiplinger: http://www.kiplinger.com/tools/budget.

As people think about how to establish their emergency fund, we urge our customers to incorporate the cost of potential insurance deductibles – auto, home, health, and others – in the event of a claim - as you never know when an emergency will arise.

Do you or anyone else have any other helpful tools people can use when trying to chart their finances as a means to reaching a specific financial goal?

My wife and I have used a similar system for years, though we don't currently allocate any of our monthly budget to it. We do assign a set percentage of any bonus money to it (1/3 savings, 1/3 "planned purchases" and 1/3 "for fun"), which has been enough for the last few years. (Not because of any great amount of bonuses, just that we haven't had that many purchases that exceeded our normal budgeting system.)

Has anyone tried this out yet? Seems like an interesting way to potentially make a lot of money without much upfront risk:

http://www.dnafxtrading.com

2 Million,

Good for you for saving and planning, rather than just buying on credit. Over the long run you'll be much better off and your readers will have a positive model to follow.

Thanks,

James

why would a wedding album cost $900?? Why not make one yourself; i bet it would have a lot more meaning for you.

What kind of "emergencies" are you planning for with $10,000? I can't think of many dire circumstances that only require $10K to solve. My wife and I blow through nearly 7G's a month in day-to-day non-discretionary expenses, so 10G's wouldn't even last 6 weeks for us.

Fern - My wife is pushing for the album we agreed it was important enough to her that we would put it high on the list. Its only important to me because its important to her - I wouldn't personally pay more than $50 for an album if it was jsut for me.

Al - Probably should have clarified - this would be $10k in additional emergency savings. As David mentioned we currently have ~$34k in cash - this would be an additional $10k in cash available to use for emergencies. $100k would a long term goal for us, but it is going to take us a long while to get there so we have a shorter term goal for the moment of an extra $10k.

Excellent observation that "making a concious decision to allocate a certain amount of monthly cash to... allows us to logically determine how important things are to us and manage things in a maintainble form.

Budgeting is more about psychology than anything else. I find it's of utmost importance to write down your expenses in the harshest and most aggressive manner. That way, you confront the bad news immediately, and the end-of-month surprises are usually positive ones. It's all about staying motivated.

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A personal finance weblog of my journey to reach my goal of $2 million + the value of my primary residence.
Current Net Worth: $1,574,185

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