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Ashley’s October 2015 Budget Update


October was a good month for income and debt payments. Check it out: 

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Electricity 269
Water 53
Natural gas 36
Cell Phones (2 lines) 89
Cable/Internet 90
Car Insurance 117
Trash 35
Preschool 956
Gift-Giving 54
Personal Maintenance 91
Restaurants 158
Groceries 695
Gasoline 89
Household Goods 69
Clothing 85
Toddler purchases 102
Rainy Day Savings 1650
Savings Goals 600
Debt Payments 5513
Total Budgeted $11,951


Electricity:  After a long, steady rise in electricity costs over the course of the extended Tucson summer, I’m thrilled that this is our last month of super high bills! I already got our November bill and its dropped back into the $100’s (albeit, the high $100’s), and I expect this will continue to decrease as we’ve finally been getting some cooler weather in our area.

Personal Maintenance: Usually this category has almost no spending, but I happened to run out of eye cream and face lotion at the same time this month, which accounted for over $50 of this month’s personal maintenance expenditures. This figure also includes the cost of hair dye (I’m still dying and cutting my own hair), and a couple yoga classes I took this month. Since face cream and lotion tends to last a long time, I expect this category’s spending to drop back lower again in the coming months (though I’ve been playing around with the idea of getting a massage once we’re consumer debt-free in the New Year sometime).

Food Expenses:  I’m struggling again with costs of food. Whenever things get stressful or busy I tend to overspend on groceries and eating out. It takes some of the pressure off me to come up with detailed grocery lists, food plans, etc. and takes less time since I can also eliminate food prep when I buy things already prepared (or mostly prepared, like buying a rotisserie chicken and just whip up a couple quick sides for it). At the time of purchase I somehow justify food expenses as necessary so I rarely feel bad about it, but once the month is over it’s a whole other story. To see we spent nearly $900 on food this month makes me sick! When I was working from home part-time our grocery budget was $400/month and eating out budget was $100/month. I’ve hit nearly double that this month and it really makes me stop and take pause to evaluate my goals and spending. At the time it always feels good to pick up food (again – its quick, easy, and takes the stress out of the dinner-time rush). But then I see the numbers and know that these dollars are competing for a job. They can go to pay down debt or to buy extra food. If I can take the time to menu plan and food prep a bit more regularly I know I can get this category of spending way down. Things are still a bit crazy around here (and likely will be until December) so I’m just trying to balance it all. My goal is to get my food spending in check, but I’m going to allow myself a little bit of grace, too. We’ll see how November goes.

Household Goods:  This includes a Costco haul of paper goods (e.g., toilet paper, paper towels), and some plants, pots, and potting soil. I have a notoriously black thumb (but I want to get better!) Somehow, by the grace of God, I’ve managed to keep a basil plant alive for so long that its now absolutely a basil BUSH! Same thing with a chive plant. The girls originally grew chives from seeds at their old preschool (the JCC) over the summer. After sprouting they brought the plants home and I’d transported to a pot. These things are growing like weeds!!! It’s incredible what a little sunshine and regular watering will do ; )  Anyway, I was inspired by these two successes to add to our little potted garden (everything is potted, rather than in the ground, since we rent and I don’t want to rip up or change any of our landlord’s landscaping). So I bought a couple new pots and plants. Fingers crossed they work out – I’ve now got some lettuce, rosemary, and some pretty flowers. We’ll see how they go!

Toddler Purchases:  This includes some new winter coats, tights, shoes, water bottles, and a kid alarm clock. I don’t really know how to document it (I’ve only been reporting money spent in this category, rather than savings), but I also set aside some money for the kids’ Christmas presents. To keep things simple I’ll keep reporting on the actual dollars spent but just be aware that I’m setting a little bit aside (in October and November) to try to ease the financial burden a bit when December rolls around. We’re still undecided on Christmas presents, but I was hoping to upgrade the girls (now 3.5 years old) to “big girl” beds. They’re still currently in cribs with the side removed (so it looks like a daybed), but they’re getting tall enough that I’d like to transition them to twin or full-sized beds. Hubs thinks that should wait until they turn 4. So, I don’t know. But either way I want to be prepared so we’ve stashed a little bit of extra cash to be used for Christmas.

Rainy Day Savings:  Our savings funds are still very much lacking, but we were able to put a little into savings this month in all of our rainy day funds. This figure includes:

  • EF (3-6 months expenses): $500
  • Car repairs: $150
  • Girls’ birthday savings: $50
  • Travel/Christmas: $100
  • Health/dental/vision: $500 (though, note, $205 was removed from this account for some of hubs’ ongoing dental work)
  • Annual fees: $150
  • Pet Expenses: $100 (though we withdrew $65 to buy some pet steps). Our dog is getting woefully old and is having a very tough time getting onto our bed at night – yes, he sleeps with us. He’s a large dog and my fear is that he’ll throw his back out one night trying to get onto or off of the bed. I know these steps are a bit spendy, but I really believe it’s a medical necessity for our dog so he doesn’t hurt himself and, although cheaper options were available, they were designed for small dogs. We needed something that could accommodate a nearly 100 lb animal and is tall enough to reach our very high bed. Hopefully this $65 charge helps bypass potentially much larger vet bills if he were to hurt himself and require an emergency vet visit.
  • Girls college savings: $100. This was a bit of a mess-up. When I set up the 529 plan for the girls I did so at the very beginning of October. I’d funded them with $25, each ($50 total) and set up a recurring payment of $25 each every month, with the transfer occurring on the 15th. I’d meant to start the transfers in November but messed up and it started in October. In the future we’ll be saving $50/month into 529s (that’s $25 each), but this month we got double-dinged.

Savings Goals:  This category is $500 toward my cruise 2016 savings and $100 toward a 2015 Roth IRA. I’m pretty excited about the cruise. It’s not until April and our next installment isn’t due until February but I officially have enough money in the bank now to pay for the full cruise. I’m going to continue saving monthly because I want to make sure we have enough for excursions, souvenirs, tips, any hidden fees, etc. I just really want to make sure we pay for this trip 100% in cash so I’d much rather have money leftover afterward than end up having to spend on a credit card. But with still another 5 months between now and our sail date, I think this fund will be more than maxed out by the time this much anticipated vacation rolls around (we’ve been planning and saving for it since February!)

And if you want a detailed debt update, check out here. Exciting stuff!

I’m a little nervous going into the month of November whether we’ll be able to meet our goals. Hubs had a big job last week that got pushed back due to a materials problem (wrong color wood). The new materials are supposed to be in tomorrow and he’d be starting the job on Wednesday…..only our girls’ preschool is closed Wednesday-Friday this week and I have to work so hubs is going to have to stay home with the kids. Then hubs’ mom comes to town Saturday through Tuesday to visit. We’re super excited about it, but that’s more time hubs will be taking off. So we’re not starting off on a good foot in terms of his income (which is really going to be the primary determining factor in whether we meet our financial goals). Things change all the time so I’m just crossing my fingers and sending up a silent prayer that everything works out in the end.

In the meantime, bring on the cooler weather! It’s about time Fall rolls around (and sorry to those of you already experiencing nightly freezes and bone-chilling weather!)


  • Reply Deeanna |

    Try a meal planning tool such as e-meals. While e-meals is a paid service (I can e-mail you referral link), there are other plans out there. We use the slow-cooker emeals weekly plan. A grocery list is provided so I just follow the list. Either my husband or I toss everything in the slow cooker in the morning and it’s ready when we get home. There is also a listing of sides. There are several different plan themes to choose. We tried most of them. When things are so hectic, we like slow-cooker. When we get bored we alternate to another. There is also one that is kid-friendly, another is budget friendly, etc. That’s not to say we don’t still eat out sometimes, but it’s a lot harder to justify when somethings already cooking at home or you have all the ingredients.

    And yes, I could do all the meal planning process. I could do the grocery list planning, etc. I like the variety of emeals. I like having it done for me. In the long run, I save more money not buying the extra stuff or things going to waste than I do paying for the emeals service.

  • Reply Emily N. |

    Food spending is rough. Maybe you could take some time over your Thanksgiving and/or Christmas breaks to put together some freezer meals?

  • Reply Walnut |

    Thoughts on food –

    Plan for busy nights. Pizza in the freezer, pasta and sauce, frozen fish and steamfresh veggie. I’ve sung the praises of Costco salmon and lemon pepper cod before. Keep tortillas on hand and turn leftover protein into tacos for the next night.

    Also, plan a bit for your takeout. Keep coupons on hand and keep a list of your favorite restaurant specials ($2 tacos, etc.). If takeout is going to happen, you may as well be sure you’re getting a good deal on it! I have a favorite place that is reasonably priced with huge portion sizes. I don’t feel as guilty when I know I’m getting leftovers for lunch the next day as well.

  • Reply Den |

    When I went from part time to full time (temporary) I fell into the trap of buying convenience foods and take out…..I don’t think I ended up with any additional money from the extra work because it was all eaten up (pun intended) by the quick foods.

    I agree with crock pot cooking, freezer batch cooking, and cheap take out when necessary, but would go a step further. Make a meal plan for the month, then reuse that meal plan each month (with minor tweaks), that way you are not reinventing the meal plan each month.

    And congrats on the cruise savings – that’s so exciting and you will be able to enjoy it even more knowing you paid with cash!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks, I totally agree! Hubs and I had 1 other vacation we took when we paid all cash (no credit), but this feels different because I’ve actually planned it out. The last time (10+ years ago), I just took from savings I already had in the bank without really doing a lot of thought about budgeting for the trip. This time I’ve got everything budgeted down to the penny and them am still throwing extra on top just to be safe! : )

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks!! There have been a couple times I’ve actually closed my eyes and visualized a massage. Hubs and I are capping our gifts at a $50 limit max, but I’ve thought about asking my Mom for a massage for Christmas (or my birthday, both are in December). So that’s a possibility, too : )

  • Reply debthaven |

    It’s a lot cheaper to buy a rotisserie chicken once a week than to go out to eat, especially if you can get two meals out of it.
    Do you go into school every day? If not, then maybe once or twice a week you can cook a large portion of something, and freeze half. After a few weeks of doing this you’ll have a bunch of frozen, homemade dinners in the freezer.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I don’t go to school every day, but most days. Even if its once every other week, it would be a help. Plus, only 4 more weeks of classes and 5 weeks total in the semester, including exam week. But whose counting??? ; ) So, should have more time over the winter break, too!

  • Reply Jean |

    I know you have a lot going on in your life – and with the holidays coming up, it’s not going to get better any time soon. Do yourself a favor: go to Costco, pick up some chicken breasts, ground beef, whatever your family eats. Take it home, brown up the ground beef and throw it into some freezer bags. You’ll have a base for sloppy joes, chili or tacos already made. Or if your family likes meatloaf, make that up (uncooked) and throw it into a freezer bag. Throw the chicken breasts into freezer bags with different spices/ingredients so you can pull those out easily & throw them into the crockpot before you leave for work to cook all day – dinner is practically ready when you get home! It takes some time to go shopping & put the freezer meals together, but you’ll be SO glad you did it when all you have to do is go to the freezer and pull something out. Rotisserie chickens are good, too, (can’t beat $5 ones at Costco!) but that can get old if you do it too often. That’s why the freezer meals are life savers. Email me if you need some good recipes.

      • Reply Angie |

        I would take a look at goodcheapeats.com Its one of the cooking blogs I’ve been following for a while and always go back to (that and budgetbytes!). Recipes are generally simple and low costs. There are tons of tags for freezer meals and crockpot meals. Her recipes are for 8 I think? So you could get lots of meals out of one recipe for your small family. But yeah, lots of freezer cooking tips and recipes. She also has a few cookbooks out and I have the Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook. Maybe they have it in your library or you could request it?

  • Reply Gayla |

    Meals are always a problem for us too! Cooking isn’t my favorite, but we still need to eat, right? I found a meal planning website that helps: PlanToEat.com
    It’s easy to import recipes from the web, or type family favorites in by hand. Then once the recipes are added, drag and drop recipe to a calendar to set up the menu and a grocery list is automatically created. (Just delete any items you have on hand and don’t need to buy.) I’ve been using this for about 3 years. I know they have offered a 30-day free trial in the past, and I buy a year’s subscription on Black Friday when they run a special. My family enjoys being involved in choosing the menu, then we print it off and post on the refrigerator.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks I’ll have to check out the site! Black Friday isn’t too far away, either, so its something to keep in mind!

  • Reply Paris013 |

    Unrelated, but where are the pictures of the girls in their Costco score princess costumes?!?!!

So, what do you think ?