Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Loving the restriction...

In the non-profit fundraising world, the donations you like to receive least are restricted ones.  By law, if a donor restricts funds, they must be used as directed.  A lot of micro-print (and, sometimes, misdirection) often goes into fundraising communications to ensure that, unless otherwise directed, all funds raised will be unrestricted, even if what you are responding to is a mailing campaign for a special project, such as summer camp or school backpacks for underprivileged children.

When we have those natural disasters that end up with everyone and their dog coming out of the woodwork encouraging you to make donations to help those affected by the disaster, for the most part, unless it is a fund specifically for the affected individuals, really what you are donating to is the ongoing normal operations of whatever organization you choose, such as the Red Cross, not, for example, those directly affected by the explosion in West, Texas.

So, it is strange for me, most recently being, in part, a grants manager for a non-profit, to be absolutely giddy over receiving a directed donation.  By that I mean, my friend Gitte sent me a Christmas gift of money to be used for more tasty cooking.  I am thrilled to be so restricted (not that she would begrudge me otherwise) to spending the money on ingredients for tasty food rather than, say, my prescriptions.

The giddy-inducing card came just after I finished what I call my Over/Under projection for 2015.  When I input all my transactions, fixed and guestimated, into my electronic register program, I know what the balances of my accounts will be at any given point of 2015, including December 31st.  The balances do not include interest, of course, but I have found that my guestimates for the bills that change have been fairly accurate over 2014.

This past year, when I worked to establish a true budget and did all those financial shenanigans, I created the Over/Under for 2014.  Doing a monthly updating of that Over/Under helped keep me on track with my spending.  Even the tiniest uptick in an account ending balance was enough to spur me on to greater savings efforts.

Since I established savings accounts for the car (having forgotten about its maintenance for over five years due to the enormous distress and changes in my life), and real estate taxes and donut-hole medications just last year, all of those accounts showed a positive change (an "over") in the ending balance from 2013 to 2014.  My checking account showed a rather distressing negative change (an "under").  And the savings account "over" was not real because that "over" was due to pulling out money from retirement for those financial shenanigans.  While I know the ending balance for the federal taxes saving account, until I know what my taxes actually are, I won't know if it is an over or an under ending balance.  And, besides, all that money is from retirement, which, sadly, cannot be returned to retirement.  I wanted that balance to actually be zero, so as to not have pulled out too much money, but rather exactly the right amount.

The point is, when I looked at the Over/Under for 2015 (when I finished creating that spreadsheet), I realized that the car savings account will, by next December, have plenty of money for belts and hoses, the next maintenance work that I will most likely need.  If I had an accident, even now it would nearly cover my deductible.  Carving out $25 a month to put into that account since January 2014 means that I will have less stress when it comes to those kinds of bills.  Of course, as Mary reminded me, I have to remember that I have a car savings account when the time comes to use it.  SIGH.

The real estate taxes Over/Under is good, but I think I should amend that automatic savings transfer by just a few dollars to build in a greater cushion.  My goal is to end up by Year End 2016 with a year's worth of real estate taxes as that cushion.  Too ambitious??

Looking at my myriad savings accounts, at my directed donations to my own financial well-being, I wonder if I should try to start another automatic savings transfer to a home maintenance/repair account.  But I also honestly cannot imagine anything that would need to be repaired!  Well, there is the Myrtle factor. I did flood my own kitchen and basement.  I do need to be ever vigilant about finding new ways to remind me to do the things to prevent Myrtle disasters, such as the mechanical timer that I spin whenever I leave the kitchen when I am cooking as an auditory reminder that I need to go back to the kitchen.

Bettina was right in advising me to forego the loveliness of a gas range for the safety of an electric one.  Accidentally leaving that on when I am done cooking is far, far, far less of a hazard than if I had a gas one.  I suppose that the cost of that time should more accurately be attributed, budget-wise, to home maintenance/repair.

However, over four years, I cannot think of anything more to be done to the house, save for luxury items, such as a living room ceiling fixture.  The electrical work for that is not the issue.  The expense of restoring the textured ceiling after a half dozen or so holes have been cut in it to run the wiring would be many times more than the actual electrical work.  And I have the ceiling fixture up in the attic (one from my last home I brought with me).  I admit that the interior designer daughter in me would absolutely love to replace the current shower in the basement, but while not aesthetically pleasing, it works just fine, especially now that there is a light above it.  But those are wants, not needs.  For the most part, I am working very hard to live a life primarily of needs.

So, do I really need to create another dedicated savings account?  I just don't know.  I mean, in my regular budget, I have included funds for the HVAC maintenance, yard work, and water, humidifier, and HEPA filter replacements. In that regard, you could say that I have the maintenance bits covered, just not separated out.  I do not, actually, have any funds earmarked for repairs, though.  I  honestly do not anticipate them.  The only real cost that could crop up is for the dryer to break.  And I refuse for that wonderful old dryer to cease its most awesomely heating activities.

Anyhow, there I was, congratulating myself on my financial victory.  You did this, Myrtle!  You made a change and are taking the worry and stress out of car ownership!!  I was pleased and a bit giddy, and then I opened a card to find that directed donation.  Do you believe in perfect timing?  As in God's perfect timing even in such small things?  I do.  I think I actually do.  The time it took for that card to travel, during the holidays, from Canada to here worked out to arrive at a moment where it became a reward for a job well-done was perfect.  A job of stewardship.  In my mind, all perfection, as with all things good, is God's, not to take anything away from the kind act of Gitte.

Okay, you can laugh at that.  I don't really care.  I do care that the 2015 Over/Under shows me that even when I am worried about money all the time and find (and then despair over) 1,001 mistakes I've made/opportunities in frugality missed, I have actually made progress.  I know it really seems an impossible goal, but I want to find a way to increase my savings, a way to live on less than the disability even with the nauseating cost of my medications and the irritating reality that all three insurances are things that will rise year after year after year.

[My house insurance took an astronomical leap this year and is now double from when I first purchased the house.  SIGH.]

Today, Mary mentioned the European butter to me.  Mmmmmm...surely that could be shoe-horned into the direction donation, right?  Did I mention that I discovered the reason the sourdough bread at Fresh Market (where I go for the European butter) is so bloody fantastic is that they make the sourdough starter onsite and let it ... stew... for three days before baking?  Oh, my!  Just the thought of eating a slice of that bread with my stew makes my mouth water.

I really was exhausted from cooking Friday... still am.  Even when this never-ending cold finally leaves my body, I think cooking will continue be an energy challenge for me.  But I have gotten away from trying new recipes regularly and would like to return to such lovely endeavors.  Thanks to Gitte's generosity, I can do so a bit guilt free.

My one goal for last week was actually accomplished today. I got the process of all my prescriptions pre-authorizations renewals started.  At one point, I was on hold for more than a hour, and the call included four transfers.  It cracks me up that not even the co-pay specialist at the prescriptions management company could figure out what it would cost to take the generic Celebrex if I jumped through the hoops to get it pre-authorized since it did not make the formulary this year.  The phone call itself was exhausting.

The problem is that, while it is a generic, Celecoxib is not on the formulary.  So, no one can tell me if it would be a preferred generic co-pay, a non-preferred generic co-pay, or an off formulary percentage co-pay.  If the latter, I could end up paying more for the generic than the non-preferred brand co-pay that I currently pay for Celebrex.

I decided, rightly or wrongly, that I would leave off that battle until I am nearing the donut hole for Celebrex, until the price of it jumps from $90 to $220 or whatever the retail percentage will be this year.  At that point, being on a percentage co-pay, at the very worst I would be comparing apples to apples and, thus, it would be worth the energy to do the sure-to-be enormous work it will take to get the insurance company to figure out how to deal with the generic Celebrex.

Meanwhile, I am savoring the roaring fire across the room and am about to peruse my collection of bookmarked recipes to find some that would qualify as tasty concoctions.  You know, I surely wouldn't mind another mustard recipe....

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