by Elizabeth S.
A new budget
It’s no secret – I’ve been blogging here since July and I still haven’t figured out a way to budget. Part of this is me refusing to manually track every transaction. I am 100% not going to do that. Life is too short and I work way too many hours a day already. The other part is technology! There hasn’t been a single service that automatically tracks transactions from my accounts. That being said, I just logged into Mint.com as I do every few weeks, and my MasterCard and line of credit are now being pulled in! So, no more excuses. It doesn’t show my student loan or investments, but I can work with what’s in there now. I just spent about an hour updating my budget categories and moving transactions to the correct allocation. This means I’ll be sharing a new monthly budget with you in the next week or two!
December is an anomalous month of spending. People generally buy gifts, make charitable donations, and spend more on food and drink. I will be doing some of this myself. Gift-wise, I’m not spending a lot, but I feel pretty terrible about it. My siblings are my best friends, and my family is huge. It’s hard to not participate in the gift-giving, especially as I have the highest salary of my siblings. I’ll get a few stocking stuffers for my closest people. I may also get small presents for my nephew and oldest niece (maybe something we can do together?). I’ll see about using credit card points for some, if not all, of this.
For my mum/grandparents/sisters in Nova Scotia, I’ve purchased a plane ticket to visit them on January 8th. With checked baggage fees (and I will most definitely need checked baggage), the fees come to $410 all in. I’ll pay that off with my discretionary spending for January (still haven’t budgeted the hundreds of unallocated dollars I have to spare every month).
I don’t know yet what I’ll do for my dad, but I’d like to spend around $150 on something for him and my stepmom. Again, something we can do together would be really nice.
December, broken down
My bills are paid and I have $760 leftover. I plan to spend that all on Christmas, either entertaining or traveling to see people. This is my favorite time of year.
My annual Christmas party is this Saturday. I’m going to be cooking for about 25 people, but I have a giant beef roast that my grandparents left me when they moved. That’s in the chest freezer and takes care of a good chunk of the dinner spending. The rest of the meal plan is being worked out right now, but it’s going to be affordable and easy to make in advance. I’m thinking cabbage rolls, maybe a big pot of soup, and fresh homemade bread. There will be rum cake and pie on the side, both cheap. I won’t supply any alcohol. My budget for the party is $150.
My spending for myself is $150 as well. This covers gas for my car, parking at the subway, some groceries for home, and taking the office manager at work out for Christmas lunch (a yearly tradition – it will be about $50).
I’m sending my direct reports in the UK each Amazon gift cards for £20 with handwritten notes. This will cost me about $70 CAD for the gift cards and I’m going to guess $10 to post the two notes. I need to mail those tomorrow morning. Let’s call this expense about $80. My boss said not to worry about the employees who report to me in North Amerca as he is going to take care of that on my behalf (win!). This is my first year working for a fancy firm with direct reports. The last time I had people reporting to me, I made $42k a year and had 12 reports. I definitely wasn’t buying them gift cards, haha. At my current job, managers traditionally get their staff something small around the holidays and then the organization as a whole distributes bonuses.
Walking around money
The rest of the money I’m very intentionally leaving as unallocated. Last Christmas, a bunch of stuff popped up at the last minute that went on the credit card. That won’t happen this year. I don’t know where I am spending Christmas yet, but I’ll spend $30 on host gifts (wine, most likely) and gas (my options aren’t close by). People from the past tend to drop in when they are in town visiting family, so I’ll be sure to have a bit of extra cash for those surprises. I am going to be glad if I have money left over, and $760 is a lot of money so I just may.
This might sound irresponsible, but it’s how I’m preventing myself from going into debt like I did every Christmas before this. My credit cards have $0 balances, I’m still throwing a few hundred at the line of credit ($350 to be exact), and I won’t be adding to my debt. January is when I’ll get back into overdrive for paying off existing debt.
Next Tuesday, I’ll share some pictures of my Christmas party and my beautiful Christmas tree. For now, here’s a picture of my friend’s dog who I am watching for a few days. Pepper is 5lbs, or 1/20th the size of my dog Rosie. They get along wonderfully.
I hope that whatever holiday you’re celebrating this winter, you’re surrounded by loved ones and good food!
How are you preparing for holiday spending traps? Any advice?
Elizabeth is a single woman in her early 30s, working as a manager at a software company and living in the most expensive city in Canada. She hopes to blog about her journey to eliminate debt and build savings for home ownership someday. Whenever she has taken two financial steps forward, she’s always taken a step back with a bad credit card purchase (we’re looking at you, unnecessary iPhone of May 2019). Elizabeth lives alone with her fur kids, a dog and cat, and when she’s not in front of the computer, she enjoys running, camping, reading, and baseball.