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Planned November Budget


This was another “meh” month with our income. We live on last month’s income and last month we only made a combined total of $5805 (after taxes). I added an extra $50 to our income (with money leftover from October’s budget), which leaves us with a total income of $5855 to work with.

I have to admit, when I sat down to make the budget for this month I was a little bummed.

In my “prototype” budget I had my car debt payment set at $3,000. Ha! We didn’t even break the $6,000 mark for income, so paying $3,000 to a single bill is not happening. We just literally don’t have enough. Instead, I had to lower my payment to only a mere $745. That’s it. I played and played with the numbers, trying to get my debt payments higher but I think that in lean months such as these, the #1 MOST important goal is this: Don’t add new debt!!! So instead of having my budget set up with overages in various categories, I had to lower my debt payments so as to keep things at- or under-budget. I’m still making larger than minimum payments, so I’m making progress. It just feels a little “blah” to pay so little in terms of the “extra” toward debt. I just have to remind myself that every bit helps! Relentless forward progress!!! (<<<a favorite running saying that I think applies here, too)

Here’s our planned November budget:

Place Planned Budget
Rent 1055
Electricity 170
Water 60
Natural gas 20
Sprint (2 lines) 115
Cable/Internet 100
Car Insurance 56
Health Insurance 350
Trash 35
Debt 1498
Miscellaneous 300
Groceries 400
Baby Purchases 1100
Gasoline 100
Saving for Irregular Expenses 495
Total Budgeted 5854


I owe you all a full debt update (maybe next week? Those take me the longest to prepare), but here’s a little breakdown of what’s being paid toward each debt:

  • Medical Bill 1 = $25
  • Medical Bill 2 = $50
  • Medical Bill 3 = $75
  • License Fees = $250
  • Car Payment = $745
  • Student Loan 1 = $77
  • Student Loan 2 = $260
  • Student Loan 3 = $16

Total Debt Payment = $1498


Now I’ve got some questions for you all regarding my savings.

First, to give you some background, when I first started blogging here (back in March 2014), I had slashed my savings way down to $190/month. Then, slowly, across the course of the past 9 months my savings have crept back up. I realized my semi-annual savings were too low (I’d forgotten about some of my semi-annual payments, and I added a new one – our renter’s insurance); I also increased the amount saved toward several categories (car maintenance, dental/vision, vet care) in response to the fact that we have upcoming needs in these areas and I felt it would be prudent to plan for those in advance rather than being surprised by the big bills when they pop up.

So what started as only $190 in monthly savings has slowly crept up to $495 in monthly savings.

On the whole, I feel good about my savings categories. I feel like this is money we will certainly need for expenses in the future and instead of not having a plan for how to pay for them, we’ll have money already set aside.

That being said, this is a very lean month. December will probably be quite lean as well. Plus, I have some potentially large expenses coming up. I’ll need to have money set aside to buy a couple nice interview outfits and some travel expenses for the month of December.

With all of this being said, what do you all think about me setting aside my “savings” money for these other purposes? I could split it roughly in half, putting $250 toward planned December travel expenses (which should cover about half the total expenses – see here), and $245 toward funds to-be-used on a nice interview outfit or two (I have to admit I have NO IDEA how much I’ll need for my interview clothes).

For reference sake, here’s how I currently have my savings categorized:

  • Semi-Annual Bills = $100
  • Car Maintenance = $100
  • Dental/Vision/Health = $125
  • Travel/Christmas = $25
  • 3-6 Months Expenses = $25
  • Dog/Vet Care = $10
  • Girls’ Birthday Savings = $10
  • Roth IRA = $100

I know it’s a slippery slope to stop contributing to these savings permanently (i.e., I KNOW the semi-annual bills are going to happen, so it’s unwise not to prepare for them), but do you think it would be prudent to stop the contributions for a single month so I can use this money toward these other things (i.e., interview clothes and travel expenses)? If not, from where should I draw this money? Contribute less toward debt payments? Try to sell more things? Something else?

I appreciate any and all tips or suggestions. Thanks!


  • Reply Juhli |

    Interview clothes are a difficult area. Have you talked to your advisors about how interviewees are expected to dress? Do you have anything in your wardrobe that can be included in your interview outfits? Can you borrow any clothing for this occasion? Have you shopped thrift or consignment stores as people often don’t wear these type of clothes again? It will cost you money but make sure it is spent on clothing that is appropriate and that you can get use out of or pass on without a problem. My older son bought a suit to interview only to find out that it was considered odd that he wore a suit to interview in his industry. It varies tremendously what is appropriate or expected. Good luck with preparing in all ways for your interview.

  • Reply Cecilia@thesingledollar |

    You should absolutely 100% thrift interview clothes. You’re not interviewing for Wall Street here. As long as it’s clean and fits and isn’t from 1984, you’re good. You can also mix and match; you don’t need suits (though they are fine) but can wear two different jackets with the same black skirt over the course of a two-day interview.

    Here’s how I typically dress for a campus visit:

    Day 1: arrival, being picked up at the airport and sometimes going to dinner: wear a nice sweater and skirt, or the kind of dress you’d teach or give a conference talk in. You don’t need a suit.

    Day 2: Usually the hardest-core interview day, with a full slate of meetings and generally your job talk and/or teaching demo. If you have a suit, this is the day to wear it.

    Day 3: Depends. Some schools just drop you right off at the airport in the morning in which case you can do another sweater/skirt and/or dress thing. Others have you scheduled for another half-day of meetings, in which case you need to wear a suit jacket/skirt (or a second suit, if you have two full-on suits.

    I would budget about $25 for a thrifted suit jacket or $50 for a thrifted suit (you might get lucky and pay even less.) Don’t go overboard. My absolute best interview suit I got for free out of our church’s donations bin; it was handmade by someone in the 70s, it fits me perfectly, and I always get compliments on it.

    I also — I hate to throw cold water on you, but try hard not to get your hopes up about this campus visit. Department chairs can be really weird, and I’ve had interviews where the people involved were CRAZY enthusiastic, only to tell me three months later in a one-line email that I hadn’t gotten the job. Just do the best you can, and try to enjoy the process, but remember that ultimately they don’t have your best interests at heart — departments have all sorts of agendas going on behind the scenes that may or may not result in you getting the job, and you have no way of knowing what’s happening, really.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I definitely agree about not getting my hopes up. For some reasons I won’t mention here, I already know that getting this position would be a LONG shot. I suppose its still within the realm of possibility, but I’m trying to look at it as more of a practice interview (or practice campus visit) so I can see how it all works and try to get my nerves under control. Kind of like a dress rehearsal. We’ll see…

  • Reply Meghan |

    Hi Ashley-

    I agree that you could potentially find a well-fitting suit at Goodwill or some other such store, however, if you are interested in buying something from a department store then your time of year is perfect! January is actually the best month to buy clothing as far as getting great deals at department stores (I am nerdy and track what are the best months to buy things, February is the best for things like sheets and towels, FYI.) I have found things like Calvin Klein suits (i.e. jacket and pants or skirt) marked down to $100! I would definitely consider this type of thing an investment so be sure you are getting something in a cut that is “classic and timeless” so you are still pulling it out for interviews or other important things ten years from now!



    P.S. Since we never heard back from Jeffrey about what was going to happen going forward when Jim left, is it at least possible to get him removed from the sidebar? With the way things ended it just kind of burns me when I see his face pop up.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hey Meghan! Thanks for the comment! Regarding the side-bar, the way the website is set up doesn’t allow me permission to alter anything (aside from creating posts and approving comments). I’ve emailed Jeffrey about this and about creating pages for the remaining bloggers (like an “about” page with links to key blog posts), but those decisions are out of my hands.

  • Reply Walnut |

    So…musings on “savings” money. A couple questions first – do you keep all of this in one account and then just use a spreadsheet to divvy it up or do you have it compartmentalized in separate savings accounts too? Also, I assume the 3-6 month emergency savings gets saved into your actual emergency fund and lumped in with everything else? (I seem to recall that you do have some semblance of an emergency fund already?)

    I think you and your husband need to agree on how much cash you want to keep in the emergency fund until you get to a point when your only debt left is your student loans. Perhaps that number is 5k, maybe it’s more like 10k-15k. Regardless, decide on that number and stick to it. Perhaps you’re at a level right now where you can sleep at night in which case I would pause further contributions to it for the time being.

    Think about your other priorities – semi-annual bills, dental work, work truck, Roth IRA’s, car maintenance. Which ones do you really want to focus on? It seems like you are spreading your savings dollars too thin to actually achieve any of these in any realistic amount of time. So prioritize them and move on. Obviously, the priority level can change, but decide how much money you want to put to these and then “snowball” the small amounts to one of them. Perhaps the work truck is only a $1500 spend, so save all $1500 and then move to dental work. I like to estimate the worst case scenario spend for all of my objectives and then list them in an excel spreadsheet. I can move my numbers around as I please and the total of the list always equals what is in my savings account. My real emergency fund lives elsewhere, otherwise it’s too tempting to tap into.

    Lastly, birthday funds, travel, vet visit, and other little savings funds. I would be inclined to lump all of these into your miscellaneous budget as they come up to avoid nickel and diming yourself each month. In months where there are birthdays, etc, you’ll either have to either cut back somewhere else or throw a little less to your debts.

    Perhaps when you do your debt updates, you should also do a savings updates. That way you’ll feel the satisfaction of being 20% of the way to your work truck goal, but maybe only 5% of the way to your dentistry. Perhaps each you and your husband want to do $1500 to each of your Roth IRA’s by April 30th. Save to it, track it, and motivate yourself to see the numbers go up in the same way you see your debt numbers go down.

    Anywho…now that I’ve written a novel, I’ll sign out. 🙂

    • Reply Ashley |

      I like the idea of doing a mini snowball for the savings goals. The only fly in the ointment for that is that prices can change and/or are unclear (like with the dental work stuff). But that’s something that could be worked around. To answer your question, I actually do have each of these as a separate sub-savings account in my Capital One 360 online savings. Each one gets a monthly deposit (done automatically) from my regular checking account so I never even have to think about it. But I definitely agree about the money being spread thin and the power of the snowball. Thanks for the comment!

  • Reply V |

    I’m kind of confused about your savings. Is it true emergency savings, as in something may pop up, or are they irregular expenses that you know are coming? Just because something is paid semi-annually doesn’t mean you can’t save and budget for it like it’s paid monthly. I would put those lines directly into your monthly budget (such as renters insurance) and then have a separate savings account specifically for non-monthly bills. In my experience the vaguer the category the easier it is to dip into it or not worry about it, but if you have to borrow from a concrete budget line you are far more likely to replace it as soon as possible and have a good idea how ahead or short you are before the expense turns up. Then again there is a difference between irregular like travel (which you control) and non-monthly, which will happen no matter what. The no matter what bills I would have as line budget items.

    I second the interview clothes advice! I also recommend asking people your size if you can borrow a suit, most people don’t wear suits daily, and those that do usually have more than one. Most people who interview in industries that require suits have a specific interview suit (I do) so that one wouldn’t even be used that much (tends to be the most formal). As a woman it’s easier to since you can wear a blouse or sweater and get away with ditching the jacket in many cases. If you are forced to purchase, look around, I got the most compliments on a bargain dress shirt from target that everyone thought was banana republic (much cheaper). I agree with the poster who mentioned that Dec/Jan is the best time to buy clothes since they all go on massive sale. The key here is, I wouldn’t budget for it until you know exactly what you need and have an idea on what you’d need to buy (245$ seems like a lot to me unless you are buying a full on suit which doesn’t seem necessary).

    tl;dr – add the semi-annual bills as a line item in each month, borrow interview clothes if possible, but determine a realistic budget if necessary.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for the comment and advice! To answer your question, I don’t have a true “emergency savings.” Instead, what I would use in case of an emergency would be my 3-6 month savings. And what I referred to as “irregular bills” does not include things like travel or gifts, etc. It’s bills like life insurance, renters insurance, car registration, etc. All things that are requirements, but come up once a year (or at some other irregular interval). I guess what I’ve done is essentially included it as a line-item in my budget, but I’ve called it “savings” because the money is auto-deducted from my account and put into a separate account that isn’t touched until these bills come up. Then when I receive the bills, I pay from the account and that’s it – they never get registered into my budget. I think I’ll leave it as is for the time being, but in January I’m going to reassess all my spending categories and will probably add these things as a line-item to my actual budget (instead of calling it “savings”) at that time.

  • Reply Theresa |

    I think you should reduce your debt payment to cover the cost of the clothes and travel. I think stopping your irregular payment savings is raiding Paul to pay Mary (or however the saying goes). It will be painful to reduce your debt payments and that is the point. You will be less likely to to want to do it again anytime soon. I also echo what others have said about getting a good deal on interview clothes, Are there any upscale consignment stores near you? You have come so far! When you listed your payments it was awesome to not see any credit card debt. That is very cool. Keep chugging along.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks Theresa! It can still be overwhelming to have so much debt, but its definitely satisfying to know that credit cards are now gone from my life forever!!! : )

  • Reply Jen From Boston |

    I second the recommendation to add your semi-annual expenses as a line item. That’s what I do in my monthly spreadsheet I use to figure out how I much I can save each month. I keep the money for my car insurance, homeowner’s, and umbrella insurance all in my savings account, but not only do I track each amount separately I also have each as a line item in expenses so I know how much is going towards each. It keeps me from thinking, “Oh, that $100 I can use for X” as oposed to putting it towards the car insurance.

    As to where to get the cash for your upcoming expenses… Which has the higher rate? Your debt or your savings account? If it’s your debt, then I’d reduce your savings. Also, in a way, your savings is for irregular expenses, and that’s what your suit, etc. are.

    • Reply Ashley |

      That’s a good point to consider which has the higher rate (my debt!!!) Regarding adding the irregular expenses as a line item, I think I’m going to wait until January and then have a total budget overhaul and do it at that time. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Reply Samantha |

    Just as a side note, could you stop describing your income as “meh”? You make twice what our family makes. You are both employed. You have enough to pay your bills. There is a lot to be thankful for.

    • Reply Ashley |

      It’s very true. Sorry to seem ungrateful! I think in comparison to the summer months (when I was literally putting $5500 toward debt per month), its tough to have our entire month’s income be about that amount. I definitely recognize that we are fortunate with our income situation and when I say our income is “meh” – it’s really referring more to my feeling/attitude about it, not the income itself (which I am beyond grateful for and know is above the national average).

So, what do you think ?