Warning: word vomit. But maybe it’ll help someone else who’s trying to make/stick to a budget.
I really can’t remember if I said anything here on the blog or not, but this year, we’re trying something… new.
My goal is to keep us on a budget for the entire year. And then, hopefully, it’ll be a habit, y’know?
We started January 1, and I stayed with it the entire month. The other day, I sat down and tallied everything up, just to see what actually happened, despite all my intentions.
Some of it was really, really encouraging. Some of it was really discouraging.
To preface the actual numbers, here’s our living situation:
I don’t have a job, besides writing, which doesn’t exactly pay anything right now. Also, the last two jobs I’ve had, I was laid off, all within the span of a year. So I just decided not to invest my time there, for the time being.
My sister lives with us, because of some frustrating sets of circumstances outside of her control. She is not able to work currently, and we provide most of her food, though Mom helps with some of that, and with all of her other expenses. Except for my sister’s cat. But a total of two cats in the household really don’t eat that much.
Mr. Loper works full-time, in a very good job that he was able to get three years ago, in the field that he wanted to be in, and we are so grateful for that.
We are blessed that he also gets a $0.25 raise every 3 months (for a total of a $1 raise each year), so his wages are slowly increasing until he caps out for his position, which won’t happen for several years. He gets paid every 2 weeks, so there’s also 2 months out of the year with an ‘extra’ paycheck. I’m hoping to save most of the money from those checks, with the exception of the increased grocery budget those weeks.
After taxes, insurance premiums, and the FSA are taken out, assuming 2 paydays per month, we have about $2000/month for everything else. What’s really nice is in those months when there’s an ‘extra’ paycheck, ONLY taxes come out of it. Someone along the way just decided that everything else would only come out twice a month, and so when we have that ‘extra’ check, there’s EXTRA on it. It’s wonderful.
We have two debts right now – the mortgage (because buying a house really was cheaper than renting, and at least I have a yard now, so I can garden!), and Winnie’s radiation therapy. We were able to pay about half of the radiation up front, and get the other half interest-free for 18 months with a balance transfer offer from one of our credit cards (This will be paid off by June of 2016, if not earlier).
We paid the car off before I quit the last full-time job (I am very introverted, and was spending 40+ hours a week interacting with the general public, I was very major burnt-out) I had back in… 2010? 2011? Somewhere back there. It’s been a while.
I am hoping to get more chickens this spring, and start selling surplus eggs late summer/early fall. But we’ll see.
Onto the Numbers!
Our estimated monthly budget was:
Mortgage – $550
Groceries – $300
Offerings – $150 (church, missions)
Gas (car) – $120
Animals/Garden – $100
Cell phone – $90
Emergency Fund (working toward $1000 by the end of 2015) – $84
Electric – $80
Utilities (water, sewer, trash) – $80
Car Insurance – $75
Natural gas (heating) – $60
Internet – $50
Winnie’s treatment – $50
*Mr. Loper Allowance – $50
*Rebekah Allowance – $50
Car Maintenance Fund (working toward $500) – $42
Car Registration/Tag – $8
PO Box – $5
Total Estimated Expenses – $1944
*Allowances are optional. If the budget won’t be met with them, then we go without. These allowances include things like haircuts, clothing, etc.
So what actually happened in January?
There were a total of six categories where the estimated matched the actual: mortgage, offerings, emergency fund, Mr. Loper’s allowance, Winnie’s treatment, and the PO box.
There were five categories that came in under budget:
Gas (car) – $56.98 ($120)
Electric – $71 ($80)
Natural gas – $51 ($60)
Internet – $46.99 ($50)
Car Maintenance Fund – $5 ($42)
How, exactly, did the car maintenance fund come in under budget, you ask?
Well, I followed a hunch, and I checked our lockbox.
Turned out I had a hefty amount of cash in there from the stocks we sold to pay for the car repairs we needed last year. So my car maintenance fund already has $500. So I just chucked in $5 to get in the habit of putting money in there, and marked it off.
Gas for the car… well, gas prices dropped, in case you’re not in the US. They dropped A LOT. When I compiled the budget back at the end of December, gas was still close to $3/gallon. By the time I needed to fill up again in January? It was UNDER $2/gallon. It’s still under $2/gallon, which is mind-boggling to me. Last time gas prices were this low, I was still driving my very first car. Although I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 21, so it hasn’t really been that long since my first car died. About seven years.
The electric and natural gas are on average monthly payments (average of the current month’s bill + previous 11 months), so I have a ballpark range of what costs should be each month, but there is some variance, so that’s why I have those budgets set slightly higher than what they will be most of the time. In a year, I’ll look at those again and see if it consistently stayed under the budgeted amount, and readjust accordingly.
Internet – it’s always $46.99/month. But our internet provider likes to hike rates with hardly any notice at all. In the four years we’ve had internet (because we went without the first couple years we were married because it wasn’t in the budget), it’s gone up $15. Yeah, when first started off, it was $32.99/month. It makes me sad. The last rate hike was $4 at once. That was early last year. I was ticked.
So, that’s why the internet budget is not $46.99. I’m anticipating another rate hike sometime in the next year, honestly. Or that they’ll finally start charging us whenever we (rarely) go over our monthly data allotment.
Now… for the painful part.
Categories where we exceeded the budget:
Groceries – $306.15 ($300)
Animals/Garden – $247.25 ($100)
Cell phone – $208.83 ($90)
Utilities – $82.48 ($80)
Car Insurance – $90 ($75)
Car Registration/Tag – $30 ($8)
Rebekah allowance – $59.07 ($50)
With the car insurance and tag… about the second week of January, I realized I’d made a grave error.
I had budgeted for those things as if I had six months (insurance) and twelve months (tag) to save.
In actuality, I have until the end of March for the car tag, and mid-May for the car insurance. So I had to increase how much I’m putting in those ‘funds’ to have enough to pay for those when they are due. After that, those categories will no longer exceed budget.
I’m actually pretty happy about the grocery budget. Only $6 over means I tried. I tried really, really hard, and for some reason, I just couldn’t make it work. Keep in mind: my grocery budget also includes household goods, like toilet paper and dish soap. Not just food. If I can find a way to fit $20-50 more a month into the grocery budget, I think we’ll be fine. I’m thinking about taking $20 from the gas budget and slapping it on here.
Cell phone – the ONLY reason this exceeded budget, instead of coming in under, was because we are preparing to switch phone providers. Mr. Loper worked 16 hours of overtime right before Christmas, and it showed up on his first check in January, so we had some extra money to take care of a few things we knew we were going to need to do. Like buy new phones (we’re switching to Straight Talk) and minutes. Those are currently sitting until we’re actually ready to switch, which will hopefully be closer to the end of February. But it means we won’t have to pay the cell phone budget AT ALL one month, because it’s already paid.
My allowance was just me being selfish and impatient. That $9 over will be deducted from my NEXT allowance.
Aaaaaand saving the second-worst for last… the animal/garden budget.
I had a feeling when I set it at $100 that it wasn’t going to be enough. I was right, but a lot of January’s expenses that pushed it over were irregular ones.
Like getting Bear neutered. Two ‘cones of shame’ for Bear. He destroyed the second one in less than 12 hours, and I gave up after that. Ned’s necropsy (which probably technically could have come out of the emergency fund, but since I had the money otherwise, I didn’t want to touch it).
In theory, I want all seeds, garden equipment, animal food, chicken feed, litter, and vet expenses, etc. to come out of this fund. But I think it’s going to need to be more like $150-200/month for that to be feasible, so we’ll see. Because I don’t know how to make $50-100 appear right now.
Now for the REALLY FUN (sarcasm, lots of sarcasm here) part.
Our un-budgeted expenses, in addition to the over-budget categories above, was $492.79.
That was ordering pizza twice, because I was too exhausted to make dinner. That was my hard drive dying, and purchasing a replacement hard drive (that may need to be returned because it isn’t working), and purchasing an external hard drive because I’m never going to have the threat of losing all my writing again. Just no. That was… um… well… tickets for Phantom of the Opera in April. And $25 worth of library fines, because I hadn’t payed them for, um… a few years.
Phantom tickets were probably (definitely) something we could have done without. But Mr. Loper and I have both really been wanting to go since we heard they were definitely coming back to our area. And if it was going to fit in the budget, it was going to be now. So oh well.
The library fines are completely avoidable if I can just remember to return my books on time. I’ve been getting things from the library for as long as I can remember. You’d think I had this down by now. But nope.
January was full of learning curves. Hopefully February’s budget will be better, especially since there’s only 28 days. Whoo!