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January Budget Update


Last month I fell off the frugal train pretty hard. A tiny portion of the spending was, in my opinion, for the best (e.g., it cost a couple hundred bucks to have our wills/power of attorney drafted and notarized). But overwhelmingly, the spending was really not a necessity, but a luxury. For instance, I bought family season passes to the zoo. To be absolutely fair, I’ve been thinking about and wanting to buy season passes to the zoo for nearly a year but the price has held me back. For whatever reason, I threw caution to the wind this month and, without even having saved up in advance, threw the cash down and bought us some passes. I will certainly make good use of them and I’m happy to have them (already gone twice with plans to go tomorrow, too!), but I do think the purchase was a bit frivolous and could have been better planned by saving up instead of just spending. This has made me re-think how I will budget.

Remember how I mentioned last month that I was just going to have a “buffer” of money that I’d allocate throughout the month (this was instead of having a “miscellaneous” budget)? Wellll, I don’t think that idea worked out too well. I pretty much spent the money real quick as if it was “fun” money, and then spent the last half of the month wondering where all of our money went! Lesson learned!

In addition to this expense, I spent nearly 50% over our grocery budget for the month. Want to know the super scary part??? I honestly have NO IDEA what I got to show for it!!! I didn’t stock up on anything, our freezer is nearly empty, and I seriously don’t know where all this money went! It’s like it was just flying out the window!

I do know that I made 2 trips to Costco during month (which always costs more than I’d like so I try to limit trips to once per month), but realistically this does not account for the full overage! The thing about my grocery shopping techniques is that I like to try to meal plan and make one grocery run per week (so I only buy what we need, keep costs low, etc.). But I made SOOOOO MANY grocery trips last month! Most of the trips were below $50, but it adds up if you go 4-5 times per week!!! Here’s what some of my entries looked like for the month:

  • Fry’s Grocery $39
  • Sprouts $19
  • Safeway $9
  • Frys $132
  • Sprouts $17
  • Sprouts $12
  • Fry’s $6
  • Albertsons $6
  • Sprouts $25
  • Costco $125
  • And so forth…..You get the point.

Sooooo many trips! So even though the majority are pretty low-dollar purchases, they add up quickly!

The good news is that writing here provides me with a big wake up call and slap in the face! It’s impossible to blog about your shopping habits and monthly spending without INSTANTLY realizing when there’s a HUGE, GLARING problem in your face!

Last month we experienced the problem. This month we will work on fixing it (and we’re already on track, with grocery spending well below budget so far and a new budget software to help me track my expenses!)

So without further adieu, here’s how last month shaped up:

January’s Expenses

Item Amount Spent
Rent 1055
Electricity 158
Water 53
Natural gas 18
Sprint (2 lines) 114
Cable/Internet 99
Car Insurance 49
Health Insurance 394
Trash 35
Preschool 1149
Gift-Giving 17
Wills & Power of Attorneys 211
Personal Maintenance 25
Restaurants 112
Entertainment 96
Groceries 572
Gasoline 47
Clothing 35
Parking 9
Toddler Pull Ups/Wipes 131
Postage 9
Debt 1784
Savings 385
Total Spent 6557


Let’s talk about some of these categories….


Gift-Giving ($17)

The gift-giving was a $14 wedding gift (remember my trick to spend super low on gifts, but still get something the recipient would want/use?), and $3 for cards from Dollar Tree. I sent one card to the wedding couple, one card to a friend expecting a baby (I also sent one of my old books from when I was a child, along with a sweet personal message to the baby about how much the book meant to me and I hope it means as much to her one day, blah blah, super sentimental stuff but also super cheap), and kept one card for this month.


Personal Maintenance ($25)

I usually spend nearly nothing on personal maintenance, but not so much this month. I went to one yoga class ($10) and got my eyebrows waxed ($15 for wax + tip).


Restaurants ($112)

 Generally we budget $100 for restaurant-eating (this is usually two “real” restaurant trips per month OR some combination of one restaurant meal and 2-3 cheaper options like Jason’s Deli or fast food, or no restaurant meals and all cheaper options, etc.). We went over this month by $12.


Entertainment ($96)

 Here’s where things really get painful! I bought season passes to our zoo ($70 for the family season pass), $21 on drinks with a friend (I put this here rather than “restaurants” because it was really just hanging out at a bar, as I had a friend come to town that moved away 2 years ago) and $5 on a Kindle book that was a total splurge purchase. I always, always use the library for books but there was a flash deal on this book (typically a $20 book) and before I knew it I was typing in my password to purchase. So, yeah. Total failure on this category for last month.


Groceries ($572)

Aaaaahhhhhh! How on earth could I spend $572 on groceries (normal budget = $400) without even knowing what I got, having nothing extra, nothing stocked up, etc??? Failure on this, too!


Savings ($385)

  • 3-6 months expenses $25
  • Travel/Christmas $25
  • Dental/Vision $125
  • Semi-Annual Expenses $100
  • Toddler Birthday $10
  • Savings for Roth IRA $100

Note, I typically also save $200/month for my car repair fund, too, but had to forego it this month so that I could use that money toward some of the other overages, discussed above.


Debt ($1784)

  • Car payment $1000
  • Student loan payment $453
  • License fees $256
  • Medical bills $75

Note, I had initially budgeted for an additional $100 to go toward my student loans (to keep the interest from accumulating), but also had to divert that money toward other overages, discussed above.


Final Thoughts

There’s not a lot more to say on the matter. I know I messed up last month. Fun fact: when I type up my budget update, I use an old template (happens to be from the month of October), so I was able to see that during that month we were working with less income, and yet made a larger debt payment than in January. Blah!

So there you have it. I’m sure many must be disappointed by my spending this past month, but I am merely mortal. I really think this was my first month that presented a major stumbling block in terms of spending (you may disagree, but that’s my opinion; we’ve had other overages, but typically for dental work or car repairs or things that weren’t merely frivolous spending). I realize what’s happened, have taken steps to change my actions, and think that this can serve as a learning opportunity for me. If you aren’t careful with budgeting your income, it really does just disappear into thin air. You HAVE to be vigilant, or else it will be gone! Lesson learned.


What’s your biggest budget-buster? Where are you most likely to overspend?


  • Reply Jackie |

    Eating out was always our down fall. Since eating clean and healthy we now only go about 1-2 times per month. It use to be 1-2 times per week. Talk about hemorrhaging money! The money was never taken out of the household account. It got used by hubby’s tips ($50-60 per week). Now we try to save that tip money and use for gas, trash collection. I also have been using the tip money for my grocery budget.

    • Reply Ashley |

      It’s so hard with tip money because its easy cash-in-hand! That’s the kind that flies away quickest so kudos for saving it to use on useful expenses!

      • Reply Jackie |

        Well he does get a normal wage. So he doesn’t live off his tips like waitress’ do. So we use to try and use that money for fun things or little splurges. Now with me out of work we use it for groceries etc.

  • Reply Ally |

    I honestly don’t know how you have kept all of these categories so low for such a long time so I think that as long as it doesn’t become an every month kind of thing you are doing just fine! Also your zoo membership may be tax deductible – mine is considered a charitable donation – so look into that. We’ve had one for years and consider it money well spent.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Oh, that’s a good idea! I didn’t even think about zoos being a potential charitable organization! I’ll check it out!

  • Reply Mary |

    Overall, you’ve done a really great job over the last year. Basically, you had a few drinks, went a little over on the grocery budget and got some passes to the zoo. Everyone needs a little break every now and then. I wouldn’t stress over it. You know what you need to do next month. Still a really good job overall.

  • Reply hannah |

    Agree with the others, I don’t think it was a terrible month. You can only go full speed ahead for so long without having to slow down, take a breather and regroup. 🙂

  • Reply Den |

    Since it was your budget buster, I think you could try and limit yourself to one grocery visit a week for the month of February…..and if you forget something, do without. The best way to not spend money is to not go shopping – simple but true!

    Also, are you still focused on paying off your car payment? Do you have a visual reminder of this target somewhere that will motivate you? A payoff date target? You need to get intense with this sucker and get it gone!!!!!!

  • Reply V |

    I think you are doing awesome! As everyone has said, fatigue is normal so you just learn your lesson and move on! I do think that spending some on activities is good. For one thing, studies show that gives more pleasure than material purchases and the memories at the Zoo with your family will be priceless.

    I also would fall into that trap of hemming and hawing over something, but not buying it because of price and then impulse purchasing it; which is an even bigger blow to ones budget than normal impulse purchases since the ones you hem over tend to be large.

    What I decided to do is set up a separate savings account to save for it and set up a goal and associated payment schedule (it can be tiny!). In CapitalOne360 you can have a goal for each account and when you reach it you can archive it and start a new one. For example you could set up a goal for a vacation and then once you reach it you archive the goal so you can still see your accomplishments and then set up the next goal for the next thing you want to save for and continue on. I find having concrete savings goals helps me so they don’t feel so vague and I can get the high that comes from saving for them. This also meant I got the double pleasure of whatever I was saving for and the feeling of accomplishment from reaching a goal, not to mention it helped stop large impulse purchases for me since price is less of a factor when you break it down over time and cash flow issues are mitigated.

So, what do you think ?