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Ashley’s February Budget Update

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After admittedly falling off the frugal train in the month of January, I think I did a much better job in February. You’ll see that not every single purchase was one of absolute necessity, but I also think I maintained a good balance of saving money, paying down debt, and getting a few things that were needed during the month. Here you go….
February Budget Update

Budget Category Amount Spent
Rent 1055
Electricity 158
Water 60
Natural gas 22
Sprint (2 lines) 114
Cable/Internet 99
Car Insurance 165
Health Insurance 394
Trash 35
Preschool 1040
Gift-Giving 50
Personal Maintenance 40*
Restaurants 87
Entertainment 35
Groceries 310
Gasoline 57
Household Goods 115
Clothing 22
Toddler purchases 20
Rainy Day Savings 625
Savings Goals 500
Debt Payments 2102
Total $7105

Let’s discuss….

  • Electricity. It’s weird that my electric bill this month was exactly the same as last month. At first I thought this was a mistake and double-checked, but this is the correct figure. Just a weird coincidence (note, I’ve been working to try to conserve electricity and the bill has gone down this month – wahoo!!)
  • Car Insurance. This got messed up this month because somehow husband’s truck ended up back on our personal insurance (instead of a separate policy in his company’s name). I’ve called to correct this so the bill should go back down again for next month.
  • Gift-Giving. We had several gift-giving occasions in February. This $50 figure includes a $30 photo book for my Mom’s birthday, my $5 classroom gift basket, and supplies for the Valentines we sent out to friends and family members (including pictures I had printed, postage, and a couple of cheap V-Day gifts I picked up from Dollar Tree for the girls).
  • Personal Maintenance. I put an asterisk next to this item because I didn’t actually spend any money during February on personal maintenance, but I plan to spend the money this month and wanted it set aside. I’m trying to decide what to do (may write a post about it), but am thinking I may get my hair done again before my big “not an interview” trip. It feels so soon, since I’d gone a full 9+ months without getting it done a single time, and then I went at the end of January before my ‘real interview’….but it’ll be a solid 9 weeks by the time I go on my next trip. Should I get a trim? Have my highlights touched up? Etc? I know I want to look sharp, so basically I set the money aside with the intention to use it this month. Not sure how (i.e., what I’ll be doing) or in what fashion (e.g., Groupon? Hair school?) yet. I’ll keep you posted.
  • Restaurants. We did better on eating out this month than we have in recent months (generally I set this at a $100 budget). However, we spent more in the next category than we usually do…
  • Entertainment. Some of this was little stuff ($3 for itunes songs; $6 to feed the giraffes at the zoo). The biggest splurge is that hubs and I actually went on a date this month! This was our first date since our anniversary in November, and we won’t be going on any dates for probably another couple of months so I’m okay with this expense. Just to be transparent, I paid for the actual “date” (movie tickets and snacks), and hubs paid for a babysitter separately, so this figure is lower than it would be if a babysitter were included here.
  • Groceries. Knocked it out of the park with groceries this month (we usually budget $400!!) I guess this makes up a bit for my overage in January, though it means I’m starting out March with a pretty bare pantry and fridge/freezer, and with it being such a tight month financially it means I’ll have to be creative with our dinner plans.
  • Household Goods. This category was also much higher than normal (usually we spend less than $30/month on household items). Some of it was just refilling some cleaning supplies (new kitchen scrub brush, laundry detergent), but I spent $40 on Round Up since our weeds have been out of control (side note – Costco is the cheapest place around for Round Up! I spent $40, but I got THREE of the big jugs-worth of weed killer, whereas Walmart sells the same stuff for $40 for only ONE of the big jugs of weed killer. Costco is the bomb.com)! The other large expense here was the YNAB software. I spent $54 for the YNAB software, but I think its money well spent (edited to add = I thought this was an annual expense, but a reader pointed out this is a one-time fee! Wahoo, I didn’t even realize that, makes it seem like an even better deal now!!!)
  • Toddler Purchases. $20 on gummy vitamins. I get two kinds: a multivitamin and an omega-3 vitamin. Also from Costco and much cheaper than I’ve seen anywhere else (even beats the sales prices at my local grocery store).
  • Rainy Day Savings. In YNAB I’ve made categories for all my savings needs. This month’s rainy day savings include: $200 (car repair fund), $125 (dental/vision), $100 (semi-annual fees), and $200 (a one-time pet expense saving). Remember when I was going to just put $500 toward my pet savings for the year? Yeah, too much money. But I made a good dent in it with the $200 savings (and then I promptly withdrew $51 to buy pet food). But still, that money will last for probably half the year, and I’m not planning to add any additional money to the pet savings right now since things are a bit tight.
  • Savings Goals. These are longer-term savings goals, not just for routine expenses. I saved $100 toward a Roth IRA, and $400 toward cruise 2016.

I said I was going to stop doing a full “anticipated budget” post for the current month, but just to give you a quick idea of how things are changing this month during our time of lower income….

In March I’ve done away with rainy day savings. I’ve changed all my Capital One 360 automatic savings plans so that nothing will be saved toward any of my rainy day funds in the month of March. I’ve also reduced my savings goals. I still have the $100 going toward a Roth IRA, but only $200 is going toward Cruise 2016 (instead of the $400 I’d initially planned). That’s a whopping total of $300 in overall savings in March…. compared to the $1125 I saved in the month of February.

This is yet another example of how having a lean month can be helpful. When I was really studying the budget and seeing where we could cut back, it’s hard not to notice that OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH IS GOING TO SAVINGS!!!!

How is this??? HOW!?!?!

We still had a decent debt payment (over $2,000; nearly 30% of our total income), but it was a bit of a shock to realize just how much is simply being set aside and saved on a monthly basis. When things get tight, the savings is the first thing to go! Just as a heads up, my debt payments will be much smaller this month, too. I’m just focusing on trying to pay all of our minimum obligations (okay, a little over the minimum, but not by much), and get through the month without any overspending. It’s been a long time since our income has been this low, and with the girls’ preschool accounting for nearly 25% of our take-home pay, regular bills (rent, utilities, insurances, etc.) accounting for another 50% of our take-home pay this month….there’s not a lot leftover for big-sized debt payments and non-discretionary spending (like groceries, gasoline, etc.).

But still, progress is progress. Any month that we’re moving forward is a good month, no matter by how little.

So there you have it.

How’d you do with your budget last month? Any big changes for this month?

Ashley

Texan at heart; Arizonan on paper. Lover of running, cheese, camping, and family (fur-family included!). Blogger, motivated to get out of debt YESTERDAY! Follow along with my journey!

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7 Comments

  • Reply Dorothy |

    I use YNAB, too, and you made it sound as if YNAB costs $54 a year – it is a one time cost with free upgrades. Hope you and your readers realize that.

  • Reply Ashley |

    Oh, wow, I actually didn’t realize this! I totally thought it was an annual fee and didn’t realize it’s a one-time cost! Thanks for letting me know, I’ll edit the post to be a little clearer about that!!

  • Reply Jasmine |

    I’m actually glad you’re having a very tight month (which sounds terrible, but I don’t mean it to be at all!). It’s much more realistic to me – my savings and debt payments are nowhere near your normal threshold, so it’s refreshing and a new perspective to see how you handle only having a couple hundred to divvy out in those categories.

    Having said that, I do thoroughly enjoy your posts and am inspired by all of your progress in the past year.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thank you!! I remember feeling the same way when Claire revealed her six-figure salary!!! Not at all relatable to me (at the time we earned closer to $3,000ish/month and I was still a grad student), so I totally “get” where you’re coming from! It can definitely be a bit discouraging when I’ve set X, Y, or Z goals and realize I can’t attain them (e.g., thought I’d finish paying off the license fees this month, one of the medical bills, and get the car below a 15K threshold….none of which will happen), but I do think it’s a nice way to step back, reassess spending/saving habits, and hopefully spring back with major progress in the coming months (assuming our income goes back up, fingers crossed)

  • Reply Rachel |

    You’re throwing a lot toward savings, but that’s a huge positive – in the future those things won’t have to be paid for by new debt! You’re “pre-financing” instead of “post-financing” 🙂

    • Reply Ashley |

      Great point! And, to be fair, a lot of the money isn’t really for long-term savings (not true of the Roth IRA). For instance, I end up emptying out the car repair fund once or twice a year (same is true of the dental/vision savings, etc.). So it’s really not as much a “savings” account as it is simply splitting up the annual costs into 12 equal payments instead of having one huge payment whenever “X” thing hits (dental bill, car repair, etc.)

  • Reply Den |

    I know it’s frustrating to have lean months when you really want to make progress on debt payoff, but you seem to be handling it well. I’m amazed at how aware you are of your spending, which is so important! Keep it up and when you have some great months of income you will be poised to make some big gains!

So, what do you think ?