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Ashley’s February 2016 Budget Update


There’ve been some changes to the ol’ budget this past month. Check out what we spent and saved in February:



Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Down Payment Savings 2155
Electricity 283
Water 61
Natural gas 163
Cell Phones (2 lines) 89
Cable/Internet 97
Car Insurance (now comes out of rainy day funds)
Trash 35
Preschool 1163
Gift-Giving 381
Personal Maintenance 8
Restaurants 175
Entertainment 147
Groceries 695
Gasoline 74
Household Goods 68
Clothing 36
Postage 15
Rainy Day Savings 3175 (minus deductions, see below)
Savings Goals 775 (minus deductions, see below)
Debt Payments 1261
Total Budgeted $12,056



Down Payment Savings ($2155): Notice that I created a new account called “Down Payment Savings.” The goal is to get to $10,000 by summer time. We’re planning to start house-hunting around May, with hopes of closing by August (our current lease is up in August, though we can go month-to-month if needed). This savings goal will heavily impact the first half of our year’s budgets since we need to save heavily at the beginning of the year.

Electricity ($283): I posted previously about our outrageous electric bill (our gas bill was high, too). Fortunately, this has gone down. I’ve already gotten the bill for March and its over a hundred dollars than February’s bill. I discussed in my post possible reasons for the sky-high bill. I took active measures to correct those issues and it looks like it paid off big-time!

Car Insurance ($0):  After this month, I’ll be removing this line item from our budget. I wrote earlier about how I changed our insurance to be paid in full for 6-month chunks of time so we could save some big money. For this budget update I wanted to just remind readers of this budget change. Moving forward, I’ll be setting money aside monthly for car insurance as part of our “annual fees” rainy day savings (part of our Capital One 360 savings account).

Gift-Giving ($381): This number is really deceiving. It does include 3 birthdays and 1 house-warming gift (for a total of $181 spent on gifts), but the other $200 is actually a charitable donation I made so I could get Arizona’s tax credit. Every year since I’ve started blogging we’ve been making similar donations (this donation was for a school, but we also donate to a children’s nonprofit organization we support). The donations cover our state income tax liability and it’s great because we get to support these organizations we love. It’s a win-win. As a side-note, I’m very curious to see what our tax liability might be for 2015. Last year we ended up owing big time! This year I was better about making realistic sized estimated tax payments, plus my new full-time job takes taxes out of my check. So I’m hoping we’ll end up breaking even, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Personal Maintenance ($8): This is just for a box of hair dye. Operation cut/color-my-own-hair is still going strong. In full disclosure, though, I’m planning to get a professional cut/color prior to cruise 2016 (which will come from my cruise savings).

Entertainment ($147): Part of this ($65) was from renewing our family’s membership to the zoo. I struggled with that decision for a bit because we don’t go nearly as often as we used to now that I’m working full-time (we used to go nearly every week!). But I did the math and realized that we’d literally only have to go three times to make the cost worthwhile (without membership it would cost us $28 per visit). We still go about once per month, so I opted to go ahead and renew. The rest of the spending was from a date that hubs and I went on. As promised, hubs and I are planning to do about one date per month this year (in the past 2 years we rarely ever had date nights). So expect this category to be a bit higher this year in compared to previous years.

Groceries ($695):  I’ve consistently over-spent in this category every single month since I started working full-time. Our old grocery budget (before full-time job) was $500/month. When I started working I initially increased the budget to $600/month. I’ve struggled hard to try to make that cut-off, but to no avail. I attribute it to buying more prepared foods and not cooking fully from scratch as often. But, honestly, after 7 months now of battling this budget category I think it might be time to admit that I just can’t hit the $600-mark. I still don’t want to be spending as much as I did this month on groceries, but I may increase my budget to $650. It’s a simple time management issue. I’m working on it, but I’m not perfect. Sometimes I’ve gotta buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store for dinner, you know? That’s just how it goes.

Household Goods ($68): This includes laundry soap, toilet paper, and some new flower pots and soil. I should post a picture of my chive plant soon. It’s seriously out-of-control! The biggest I’ve ever seen!!!

Rainy Day Savings ($3175): I’d deposited $3175 into my various rainy day funds (though some money was also withdrawn from these accounts.) See below:

  • 3-6 Month EF: $1,000. My goal is to get to $5,000 for now (about 1 month of expenses). Eventually I’ll want to raise it up further, but that’s it for now.
  • Car Repairs fund: $400 (though I withdrew $195 for a new tire and will withdraw the other $200 soon to repair the weird car flap thing that broke on my car the week after I paid it off).
  • Birthdays: $50
  • Health: $425 (though I withdrew $74 for a doctor’s visit and prescription after my kids got pink eye. I was able to save money because I only paid for one doctor’s trip and one prescription, but it was enough for both kids. Our pediatrician is awesome this way because she’ll often look at both kids, even if I’m only there for one of the kids).
  • Annual Fees: $1000 (though I withdrew $918 to account for 6-months of car insurance)
  • Pet Expenses: $250
  • Girls’ College Savings: $50

Savings Goals ($775): $775 was deposited but there were also withdrawals. See below:

  • Savings for 2015 Roth IRA: $275
  • Cruise 2016: $500. I also withdrew $1276 from my cruise fund to make our final cruise payment and buy a couple cruise-related items (e.g., a snorkel set and beach stuff). I’ve got a post that talks more about how much money is still leftover and what I plan to do with it, planned to post later this week.

Debt:  I gave a full debt update here.

Final Thoughts:

This was a really high-income month for us! We were able to save a TON of money! Between the house downpayment, the rainy day savings, and the savings goals we put basically $6,000 toward various savings (though, to be fair, a lot of the “rainy day savings” were immediately spent. Example: nearly a thousand for car insurance, another couple hundred for car repairs, etc.) Even with some of these larger expenses, I was very pleased with how well we did! As I’d mentioned in my debt update post, we’re right on track (ahead of schedule, really) with our debt payments in order to reach out $30,000 goal for the year of 2016. And in regard to the house downpayment fund, we’re right on track with that as well. We’ll need to keep putting about $2,000/month toward the down payment fund to reach $10,000 by June. It will be tight, but I believe it’s doable. Finally, I mentioned in this post how we had a bit of extra money. A lot of that ended up being routed toward rainy day savings funds. But we also put just over $300 into our “last month’s income” account inside of YNAB’s budget software. It’s just a tiny amount, but it’s the beginning. I can’t wait to build back up that buffer so that we’re always living on last month’s income. It was a fantastic feeling of peace to have that extra money (in addition to an EF). Can’t wait to get that feeling back! Little by little. It will happen. : )

How did you do with budgeting last month? Do you have any problem areas in your budget? How do you deal with them?


  • Reply Walnut |

    Food is my battle point also – not much I can do to help there! Gift giving is an item I’m trying to figure out. At what point do you no longer give siblings birthday gifts? I was thinking after high school, but it seems appealing to make the day of a broke college kid with a bit of a splurge item. Otherwise, I do try to cap gifts at about $25 unless there’s a really good reason to exceed that.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Gift giving can be tough! I think the sibling thing has so many different variables. I just send cards now (no gift), but if I were physically around I’d probably take them out to dinner in lieu of a gift. Of course, we’re in our 30s now so much older than the high-school (or college)-aged cut of you’d suggested.

  • Reply Liz |

    Holy detail bat-woman! That’s a great monthly income, and some serious time spent figuring out where to put it all and then pull it from (again!). Hats off to you.

    I’m struggling with gift giving this month. I can meet my savings goals fine, but only if I don’t give as big as I have in the past and I don’t want the receive to feel that I love them any less as a result.

    • Reply Ashley |

      When I first started trying to get out of debt I drastically cut the amount I would give as gifts. I went from about an average of $40/gift to $15/gift (though I’ll admit that in just the past couple of months that number has started to creep back up a bit to probably closer to $25/gift).
      One of the things that I found is that I would always feel awkward giving a $15 gift because I thought it was so cheap….but the recipient never once seemed to notice, care, be offended, etc. Honestly, it’s all about a gesture. I’d put more thought and effort into my gifts, maybe try to find something cute on etsy or something that the recipient needed, but to get it at a discount (e.g., if they registered at William Sonoma for a fancy-pants frother, I might buy a nice frother from Target for a fraction of the cost, but still giving the recipient an item they’d needed/wanted along with gift receipt in case of duplicate presents).
      My point is that I think the cost matters more to US (as the giver) than to THEM (the receiver). Maybe I’ll write a post about this one day because it was a really big shift in my budget line items to go from pretty large/pricey gifts down to very minimal (in terms of price) gifts.

  • Reply Judi |

    Great work! I’m glad that you’re really sticking to your guns with the savings goals. Savings is such an important part of creating a healthy financial future! I know the die hard Dave Ramsey followers may not agree with saving this much while paying off debt, it’s really important in certain situations where 1) debt is high enough that it will take years to pay off 2) the debt is not high interest consumer debt. You’re building a great foundation, great job!
    Also, groceries are consistently my issue as well. I’m also in academia and the odd hours are hectic. Forgiving yourself while you have so much going on (seriously you’re amazing), is important. Good luck with your goals this years, you’re doing great!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thank you! I know some people are very against savings (especially in this amount) while in debt. But I think you nailed it on the head when talking about the size of the debt and taking years to pay off. I like Ramsey (though don’t follow everything he says, obviously); I’ve heard him say that the average family pays off their debt in 18 months. Of course, we have a LOT more debt than the average family. If all it took was 18 months, I might delay savings too. But we’re already solidly 2 years deep in debt-repayment with probably another 3 years to go.

  • Reply Den |

    I continue to be impressed with your enthusiasm and organization in your financial life! It looks like you are off to a great start for 2016!!

    Regarding the groceries – I think it’s time to raise your monthly budgeted food amount. You have been struggling with this budget category since you started and it just doesn’t seem to be realistic. Much better to have a more realistic amount and then stick to that.

    Love to watch your progress!

So, what do you think ?