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Ashley’s March 2016 Budget Update


Hey guys! Only a week behind with March’s budget update. Trust me, one week behind isn’t too bad for me right now. heh. Work is a bit in overdrive, but I love it. I’m gearing up, getting ready to be out of town for a solid 8 day cruise and working like a crazy person to try to get everything set just right to run on auto-pilot (fingers crossed) while I’m gone.

Here’s how the month of March went for me:


Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Down Payment Savings 2000
Electricity 176
Water 61
Natural gas 105
Cell Phones (2 lines) 89
Cable/Internet 97
Trash 35
Preschool 1085
Gift-Giving 189
Restaurants 157
Entertainment 102
Kids Activities 142
Groceries 573
Gasoline 108
Household Goods 144
Clothing 157
Rainy Day Savings 1580 (minus deductions, see below)
Savings Goals 800 (minus deductions, see below)
Debt Payments 2134
Total Budgeted $10,934



Down Payment Savings ($2000): This is right on track.” The goal is to get to $10,000 by summer time. I’ve had a couple questions about the house-hunting journey. We have NOT started “hunting” yet (though we’ve been doing searches on Zillow just-for-fun and grabbing flyers from homes that are for sale just for comparison). With everything going on, we decided to wait until after the cruise to start hiring people (e.g., realtor, mortgage lender). Our goal is to move late summer or possibly early fall. Our current lease is up at the end of August but our landlord will let us go month-to-month at our current rate (no increase) if we haven’t closed yet by that time. The ideal situation would be to close in late August so there’s just a little overlap of about a week or so. But I know these things can be so unpredictable and we’re lucky to have flexibility with our current landlord. We do NOT, however, want to move much earlier than August (since we’d then be paying double rent/mortgage). So we are not actively on the house-hunt yet. 

Electricity ($176): Remember our outrageous electric bill from February? Fortunately, we only got caught by surprise that one month. Since then, the A/C and heater have both been turned OFF. There have been some hot days (and some cold nights), but it’s been within a range that we as a family could deal with (nothing too extreme). It’s been in the mid-90*s a couple times this week already, so we’ll see how long we can go without any A/C. I already got the bill for April and it’s UNDER $100!!! I’m loving the lower electric bills right now but, like I said…we’ll see how long this lasts (Tucson’s summers are brutal!) The A/C will have to go on at some point.

Gift-Giving ($189): Similar to last month, almost all of this was a charitable donation I made so we could max out Arizona’s tax credit. $25 was for a wedding gift, which was the only non-donation portion of the gift-giving.

Entertainment ($102): A few bucks of this was for music on itunes. The rest was from a date night. 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.

Kids’ Activities ($142): This was a high-spending month for kids’ activities. The bulk of this was from our weekly swim lessons (April is the last month for our lessons; we may re-start once it’s summer time, but the initial point of the swim was to get the kids comfortable around water before our cruise. They’ve been making great strides with safety and although they aren’t fully able to swim, of course, they have learned all kinds of life-saving measures if they were to fall in. Safety was my main concern). $40 of this was from horseback riding lessons and farm time that we did while the girls were on Spring Break. The person who does it is a friend-of-a-friend. She is the Benson Butterfield Rodeo Queen. She lives on a nearby farm and lets kids come out and experience “farm time” (basically feeding and petting/playing with all the animals) for $15/hour and horseback riding lessons for $20/hour. I split the lesson so each child had 30 minutes of instruction and tipped an extra $5 just because she was extremely accommodating. Still kind of spendy for us, but it was a ton of fun and was a great way to spend a couple hours during Spring Break week.

Groceries ($573):  After months and months of struggling to keep this number below $600, we finally pulled it off this month. I think it helped that I had increased flexibility over Spring Break (so I was at the house, able to do more food prep, etc.). I’ve also been making a really conscious effort to prep foods on Sunday for the week to come. I’ve gone so far as to portion out daily portions of fruits and snacks; I’ve pre-cooked chicken breasts for lunches; I’ve pre-washed, peeled and chopped up carrots into sticks for snacks; I’ve pre-made breakfasts (e.g., like making a big batch of pancakes that can be refrigerated/frozen and re-heated in a toaster), etc. etc. etc.  It’s tedious and time consuming and not always the way I want to spend my Sunday afternoons (I typically do everything while the girls nap), but it’s made my life MUCH easier during the week when I do my prep versus when I don’t.

Household Goods ($144): This category is pretty high this month because I spent $100 on stuff for my office. I bought a 5 x 7 rug, a big wall clock, and a painting (all from Big Lots).  I started this job last July, but it just now looks like I’ve actually moved into my office space. It’s really nice, especially since I spend a lot of time there.

Clothing ($157): This is a bit higher than normal for us. A good chunk of it was new shoes for the girls. Kids feet just grow so fast, I tell ya! But we’ve gone the cheap shoe route and they tend to fall apart, so we opt for slightly nicer tennis shoes. This also includes a couple of new work shirts from me from Wish (see my review here) and new summer PJs for the girls since they’ve gotten hot and sweaty a couple of times at night in their long-sleeved jammies (still using no A/C, remember?) ; )

Rainy Day Savings ($1580): I deposited $1580 into my various rainy day funds (though some money was also withdrawn from these accounts.) See below:

  • 3-6 Month EF: $1,000 (goal is to get to $5,000).
  • Birthdays: $200. The girls’ birthday is on the horizon in June. To date, we’ve never had an actual birthday party for them, but we want to this year for the first time. It will still be simple (at our house, not another venue), but we’re going to start throwing a couple hundred a month toward this savings category so we don’t get caught by surprise in June.
  • Travel/Christmas $50. We like to save at least $50/month in this category, as finances allow (sometimes we skip it if needed).
  • Annual Fees: $280 deposited (though I withdrew $484 for a vehicle emissions inspection and registration for 2 years. That leaves us with $150 still in the account currently)
  • Girls’ College Savings: $50. This is a standard auto-payment that we do every month. $25/month per child isn’t a lot, but it’s better than nothing and that’s what we’re comfortable doing right now while we’re still financially focused on getting out of debt (and buying a house!!!)

Savings Goals ($800): $800 was deposited but there were also withdrawals. See below:

  • Savings for 2015 Roth IRA: $300 deposited. Another note about this is listed below.
  • Cruise 2016: $500. I also withdrew $35 from my cruise fund to buy some new clothes for the trip.

Debt:  I gave a full debt update here.

Final Thoughts:

We ended up putting more toward debt this month than we’d originally thought we would because the balance transfer really needed to be paid off before April (and we did manage to make that happen). It all worked out, though, because we still hit our goal of $2,000 toward the house down payment fund, and we still started hitting several of our other savings goals. We’ll continue to beef up our emergency fund, specifically, in addition to our other “rainy day savings” funds in the months to come.

Related to savings, I didn’t report the “withdrawal” above because it technically occurred in early April, but I took $1500 out of the “savings for 2015 Roth IRA” and put it into our Roth account (last year was the first year we opened a Roth, with a meager $1300 contribution). Our contribution this year wasn’t great either, but it’s better than nothing and 10% of my paycheck is auto-deducted and invested into a 401(k), so this is actually a little deceiving because we certainly saved more than just $1500 this year.

So there you have it. The big goal remains the same: Save up money for a downpayment for a house, beef up our emergency fund, and continue knocking those student loans in the face. It’s more like little jabs right now while we’re saving so much. But soon it will be full-blown punches! I’m coming for you, student loans! Mwhahaha (<evil debt-paying laugh).


  • Reply Jean |

    I hear you about the food prep. Seems like it takes a lot of time initially but it makes like SO much easier through the week.

    I keep thinking about your “year of becoming a grownup”. My husband & I finally got our wills/POAs done a few weeks ago. Now it’s on to consolidating all of my 401(k)s from old jobs!

    Is your whole family going on the cruise? I don’t remember. If so, make sure that someone else is listed as emergency contact for your dad, and can make medical decisions temporarily if you decide that’s the way to go. Not something you want to think about, and something you hope you don’t need, but better to be prepared. My mom is her sister’s guardian and she had to designate someone when she was out of the country a few weeks ago.

    Enjoy your vacation!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thank you! My brother is actually going through a pretty terrible divorce so he can’t leave the country because (1) he can’t give up possession of the kids, and (2) he can’t take the kids out of the country right now. He’s got power of attorney so if anything comes up while the rest of us are on the cruise, he can take care of it. We’ll miss him on the trip, but glad he’ll be around to care for my Dad.

  • Reply Walnut |

    I think this looks like a really balanced month of spending. A big part of debt payoff is figuring out what “normal” looks like. You can’t do bare bones forever, so it’s nice to see a slow layering in of savings, date nights and some clothing purchases.

  • Reply Katie |

    Just one idea – do you have Amazon Prime? If so, they have a music app that is fantastic. I haven’t spent money on purchasing itunes music since I discovered the Amazon app.

  • Reply Ashley |

    I did a free trial when I was still a student, but we don’t currently have Amazon Prime. Is the music app new, or no? I just never knew about it while I was a student (back when I had prime). Good to know though, just in case.

    • Reply Katie |

      It’s fairly new. We’re going to cut the cord on cable soon, encouraged in part because the Amazon Prime video library is pretty extensive too. I don’t usually go out and promote products, but I really like Prime, and think it’s worth the annual fee.

  • Reply C@thesingledollar |

    Man, I hear you on being behind on everything. I’ve been full steam ahead for two months and I don’t even have kids, and I am wiped out. You’re doing a great job with everything, though!

    One question: does your husband cook at all? You always seem to talk about food as basically your problem: when you prep on Sundays, when you’ve had a busy week at work and end up with takeout, etc. I get that this might have been a division of responsibility that developed when you weren’t working full-time, but now that you are, you might find that things go better if the food work is more spread out.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I do feel like all the food is basically my problem (which, I’m sure, is why it comes off that way), but to be totally fair hubs does help some. I’d still say the majority is on me. For instance, I do the meal planning, grocery shopping, and food prep. Sometimes I’ll send hubs to the store for a quick item or two, but I find that I’m a much more economical shopper than hubs. If he does the full grocery shopping I’ll often find several “impulse buys” or more costly options in the cart compared to what I typically get. In terms of cooking, I’d say that it’s about a 70/30 split with me doing the majority. I used to do nearly all the cooking so this is certainly an improvement over previously (before I was working full-time), but it’s still not 50-50. I think a lot of this is just due to different skills/talents. Hubs is great at grilling…not so great with other types of cooking. If its a night I know he’s in charge of cooking (like I’ll be working late or something), I try to leave something easy for him to put together. Otherwise, he is liable to run to the pizza place to pick up a $5 large. So those are the issues. They’re both related to natural talents/abilities (I’m a better planner and chef in general) + to money concerns (I have a better eye for saving money/sales, etc.)

  • Reply debtor |

    not on topic at all but haven’t been here in a while and wanted to let you know that I think of your dad and send prayers and good wishes to you all!

So, what do you think ?