October 2014 Money Puddle and Spending Report

This was our first month under our new money management system! We needed to change things up because with only one regular income plus some side hustles for the fall, we no longer have the luxury of saving into our targeted savings accounts. I consolidated most of our savings accounts in October and stopped our automatic transfers.

 

I have to admit that figuring out how much money we spent was a bit more difficult that what we’ve done in the past. I’m still trying to zero out our account balances at the end of the month, but I also wanted to make sure that our spending matched our money puddle. Essentially this is the equivalent of balancing a checkbook, but I did find it tedious to track down the discrepancies instead of just trusting the balances. But I found everything in the end!

 

It’s really interesting and different to actually know how much we spent rather than just looking at our income because we do transfer away quite a bit of our income. Before we sort of obscured our actual spending by using our targeted savings accounts to smooth irregular expenses.

 

There is one charge that I’m hiding from you. Kyle rolled his Barclaycard to the no-fee version a few days in advance of the deadline, but we were charged a fee anyway. We called to get it reversed and they said it would be, but for now the charge is still sitting there.

 

All in all I think this was a good start for my funemployment/our underemployment state! There is room for improvement but we didn’t go crazy in either over- or under-spending.

 

Money Puddle

 

As I outlined in my previous post, our money puddle represents our gross income from September, less taxes, our tithe, and savings into our Roth IRAs. This is the source of all of our spending money for the month (before dipping into savings).

 

October 2014 Money Puddle: $1615.08

 

Spending

 

Housing and Utilities

  • rent $910: This was the first month of our new higher month-to-month rent.
  • electricity $97.88
  • internet $34.99
  • cell phones $96.55: One Republic Wireless phone and one Verizon phone.
  • water $34.65

 

view from Megabus

view from Megabus

Transportation

 

BBQ fair

Kyle’s fair dinner

Food

  • groceries $415.70: We spent $343.23 on cards, plus $72.47 in cash/gift cards. I was very happy we kept within the $420 budget we’ve had in place for a while. It’s a rarity and I think it means my meal planning is working!
  • eating out $7.91: We actually didn’t eat out at all recreationally in October. This charge was for when Kyle grabbed breakfast after a departmental retreat ended before driving home.

 

Entertainment

  • basketball $250: We bought a season ticket to our university’s men’s basketball home games.
  • state fair $31.40: We spent $15.40 on tickets and $16 on food (cash).

 

Miscellaneous

  • poster $40.79: Kyle paid out of pocket for a poster for a retreat, so I’m hoping this will be reimbursed eventually.
  • binders $15.05: I bought several binders (on clearance – very unusual for me to notice that) to file away some of my papers from grad school. I finally got around to this after cleaning out my office in August. :/
  • cash withdrawal $20

 

Reimbursed from Charitable Giving

 

Assessment

 

Money Puddle: $1615.08

Total Spending: $2128.83

Difference: -$513.75

 

We have three ways of assessing how successful we were in terms of living within our means this month.

 

1: Did we spend within our money puddle+$176?

 

Simple question – did we have money left in our checking account at the end of the month or did we need to transfer money in? (This is after accounting for the smoothed retirement contributions from my last two paychecks, which come out of savings.)

 

No, we overspent our money puddle+$176.

 

2: Was our deficit, if any, less than the amount we saved to our Roth IRAs?

 

Yes, we saved more than $337.75 into our Roth IRAs.

 

3: Did our net worth increase?

 

Yes, our net worth on October 31 was $907.13 higher than what it was on September 30. It sure was a rough ride, though!

 

Two ‘yeses’ out of three is pretty good! I’m definitely gunning for 3/3 in future months but this is an okay start.

 

How many miscellaneous transactions do you typically have in a month? How much money do you spend in an average month?

 

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25 Responses to "October 2014 Money Puddle and Spending Report"

  1. A great way to make sure you get to zero is to use last month’s income to budget for this month’s expenses. It’s a system I’m definitely considering adopting as my income is more all over the place than ever.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted..The Power of “Only If It’s Free”

    1. Emily says:

      When we were paid monthly at the end of the month, it was very easy to use that month’s income for the subsequent month’s expenses. We’ve kept that pattern up in this period even though some of our pay comes at mid-month. It takes a little more discipline but I’m glad I know that money puddle number going into each month, as you said! I highly recommend catching up as soon as you can!

  2. Looks like you’re doing well given the transition! We aim to spend under $1,000 every month (not including our mortgage) and we’re usually able to hit that. But, November is definitely going to be a higher spend month for us as we’re hosting my in-laws for Thanksgiving and going on a much-needed weekend getaway to the Vermont mountains.
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted..Weekly Woot & Grumble: Certified Turkey Freak

    1. Emily says:

      That’s quite low spending! I guess we spent around $1200 this month not including our rent, but nothing big came up except buying the basketball ticket. November is going to be high spending for us as well because we have to buy our flights for Christmas. Sounds like a great month for you guys!

  3. ervinshiznit says:

    I have no idea how big your residence is or how much electricity costs where you live, but your electricity bill seems kinda high?
    Are you aware of vampire loads? Some appliances still drain energy even though they are turned off. The only way to prevent that is to actually unplug them or connect them to a power strip, and turn off the strip. There are smart ones that can turn off the entire strip based on some “master” (ie, set the TV as the master, and it controls the AV unit, a game console, etc)
    You can measure vampire load with a kill a watt.

    1. Emily says:

      Just this month we started getting reports from our power company comparing out usage to our ‘neighbors.’ It wasn’t super useful, though, because they only compared us with our “most efficient” neighbors and didn’t separate the types of housing (apartment/townhouse/house, own/rent).

      Spending under $100 on electricity in a month is actually good for us, based on the years we’ve lived in Durham, so it doesn’t concern us too much. Our place is about 1200 square feet. We are aware of vampire loads, but we haven’t invested in smart power strips and Kyle refuses to unplug and plug things in every day. 🙂 I’m anticipating spending more on electricity this winter than usual because I’m home all day and we won’t be turning the heat off the way we usually do during the day.

      I don’t really know if it’s typical for townhouse rentals in Durham, though. Any other Durhamites want to share what you spend on electricity (and gas, if applicable) every month?

      1. Kelly says:

        Your electric bill seems on the high side of average, but not too concerning if you are home most days (ours averaged ~$75 this time of year, but we had a programmable thermostat, smart strips and weren’t home during the day). We also put that plastic sheeting over the back patio doir, which really cut down on heating/cooling costs.

        1. Emily says:

          Maybe I will ask for some smart power strips for Christmas. 🙂

  4. I’m a little hazy on how your new system works. $500 seems like a lot to be overspending in a month. But, I think I’m missing a piece of the puzzle…
    Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom recently posted..Guess How Much We Cut Our Electricity Bill

    1. Emily says:

      Haha, I see your point – under what crazy system is hemorrhaging $500/month okay??

      What’s going on with us is that I stopped working in August. This was the first month for us without two full-time incomes. We’re in a period of transition and I probably won’t work full-time again until next spring or summer because we’re planning to move but we don’t know where to. We prepared for this by piling up lots of cash. It’s definitely my goal to earn enough (through side hustles)/spend little enough that we don’t go over our available spending money. BUT this month was a partial success because we still saved more for the long-term than we overspent. So really what’s happening is that we’re drawing down our short-term savings in favor of keeping up the pace we want with our long-term savings. I was also pleased to see that our net worth increased, which was a little from keeping our spending low and mostly from gains in the market.

      We’ve cut back our spending as much as we want to for now. We’re still keeping up our fairly normal grad school lifestyle, which some people would consider frugal but is definitely not extremely so. We have some planned large expenditures as well (flights for Christmas, a DSLR, car repairs), which we have prepared for. If things start looking really dire in terms of going month after month with more going out than coming in, we’ll probably change our living situation – get a roommate or move to a smaller place.

      I hope that explains my attitude a bit better! We don’t plan on this being a long-term situation by any means.

      For more reading on this (well-documented!) transition:
      Revamping Our Money Management System
      A New Appreciation for Living Below Our Means
      Solving Our Two-Body Problem in 30 Seconds
      How Joint Money Management Is Keeping My Marriage Together

      1. That makes more sense!
        Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom recently posted..5 Things To Consider Before Giving Up Your Dryer

  5. Leigh says:

    I’m trying to figure out what my system is going to be when I’m between jobs soon. I will have no income in the break at all. My current plan is to just transfer my spending plan amount from savings (instead of income) to checking at the end of the month and go along as normal. I’m trying to reduce spending a bit. My fixed/required expenses (mortgage, property taxes/12, electricity, internet, insurance/12, vehicle tab renewal, driver licensing, passport, fuel, and some level of food add up to about $1,800/month.

    If this was real unemployment, I would recast the mortgage, lowering my required payment to about $600/month instead of the current $1,000/month. That would lower my barebones budget to $1,400/month, which is much more reasonable! 🙂
    Leigh recently posted..October 2014 net worth update (+1.1%)

    1. Emily says:

      Do you have your next job locked in yet and if so how long is your break going to be?

      Yep, I think that’s pretty much the only way to run your finances during that time! You can be a bit more conscious of your spending than normal but not necessarily cut back – same as what we’re doing now.

      1. Leigh says:

        I have accepted a job offer. I haven’t narrowed down my end or start dates yet though. I plan on taking about 1-2 months off. My current plan is to start the new job in mid-to-late January and I will quit my current job before Christmas. It’s going to be super weird drawing down savings for those few months! I haven’t done that in years really. I have a lot more savings now than I did then, so I’m not really worried at all. My boyfriend and I are planning on taking a big trip with my time off, so it won’t be that frugal. It’ll be worth it though and I’m super excited for the trip too 🙂
        Leigh recently posted..October 2014 net worth update (+1.1%)

        1. Julia says:

          We’ve been drawing down our savings for our trip, and it’s definitely not fun to watch our accounts decrease! However, we’ve been having a great time traveling and it’s totally worth having an extended time to do so without having to start work immediately upon returning!!! Do it! 🙂 Where are you thinking of going?
          Julia recently posted..Climbing in Southern Thailand

          1. Leigh says:

            We’re trying to decide between Australia and New Zealand, for about three weeks. We’re leaning towards New Zealand at this point!

        2. Emily says:

          That month or two is going to be AMAZING!! What a nice break! It will be weird but you really have nothing to be concerned about. In fact, it would be most concerning if you WEREN’T psychologically able to draw down some cash to have this experience. Your net worth still has a pretty good shot of increasing during that time, anyway, because of your investments.

          1. Leigh says:

            I’ll still make my normal January Roth IRA contribution out of savings. I’m probably going to end up with “too much” money in savings (about $50-60k) since I’m refusing to do anything other than leave it in a savings account until I get a paycheck from my new job. That’s probably going to help me feel like it’s okay to spend it.

            I think I’ve finally reached a net worth/savings level where I can psychologically allow myself to deplete savings for something fun. I used to not be able to do this when I was younger. I’m proud of myself for finally being able to do this!!!

            Thank you for your response – my mom’s initial response was that was way too much time off work and unemployed people shouldn’t be taking big trips :/ (She has some vague idea that I have a pretty reasonable amount of money, so I don’t know where this came from at all…)
            Leigh recently posted..October 2014 net worth update (+1.1%)

          2. Emily says:

            Hey, I think it’s a great accomplishment to develop a supersaver mindset and then get past it to enjoying your money by your mid-twenties! I hope you can hold on to both a reasonable amount of savings and the ability to spend some of it.

            There is a huge difference between being truly unemployed and having a job lined up! You can relax for a while and go on your vacation with total peace of mind about your job situation. Even unemployment with savings (like me) isn’t desperate. Yeah, I’m really not sure where your mom’s logic is coming from – I guess she just worries about you. But don’t let it spoil your break!

  6. Liquid says:

    You guys are so frugal. I wish I had the will power to not eat out so much too lol. 2 out of 3 metrics passed is pretty good. Your net worth is higher, which is the most important measure. Later on you can take your wealth and turn it into a source of income generation, which will help you reach financial independence. I spend about $3K a month with about 20 fixed costs plus 5 to 10 misc transactions.
    Liquid recently posted..Midterm Election Swing Trade

    1. Emily says:

      Ha, thanks! I think we’ll eat out a bit more in November. It was mostly about controlling food rather than limiting spending – I’m trying to intensively meal plan.

      I really thought our net worth would be lower – I even wrote it into my draft post – after the first half of the month. We are almost completely at the mercy of the market on that one. I’m really glad we have enough money invested now to see appreciable swings!

  7. Gretchen says:

    I love how disciplined you are! Your budgeting is always on point and I’m always impressed that it involves TWO people. You and Kyle are huge examples of how important it is to marry someone with similar money views. The older I get, the more and more important it becomes to me and while I don’t know much about your relationship outside of this blog, it really is admirable!

    Since I’ve moved in with my parents, I have increased my 401K contributions by a significant amount, but I have not been as successful at saving as I thought I would be. Part of it is that the city we live in has a higher cost of living and I think the other part is that I do not have a lot of fixed expenses (like rent or a car), so I am not as disciplined as I used to be. I need to kick my butt into gear.

    1. Emily says:

      I really appreciate your kind words, Gretchen!

      Honestly, I didn’t feel that we were exercising much discipline this month, but I think that’s what happens when delayed gratification becomes a habit (by necessity). Like you said, it’s almost easier to succeed when there are a lot of constraints because it forces you to pay attention. But it seems like ‘paying yourself first’ into your 401(k) is working! How can you translate that success into other savings goals?

      You know, I was just thinking about compatibility the other day. I think when I was younger, dating seemed to be about finding someone who you could match your ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ with well – how you spend your time, music preferences, career path. (I had a boyfriend once who was passionate about politics on one extreme side, and I just didn’t care much about that, and that was one reason it wasn’t a good match.) I think that was both my idea and from the culture I was in. But now (I mean, I’m not old, but I do think I have a good marriage) I realize that character should be the weightiest factor in choosing someone to be with.

      The interesting thing about finances is that it can touch both the surface-level compatibility (I like to spend money in these ways, I like to save this much) and the character issues (we are a team, I am honest, I put your needs before my own). I wasn’t being choosy about money values and habits when Kyle and I started dating, so I think I really lucked out that we developed alongside one another and now agree about money to a great extent. If I were dating now, I would definitely place a high priority on being compatible around money, first on the character insights and then on the preferences and mechanisms because I think the latter are more malleable.

  8. I wish I could total all the expenses at home. My mom and dad don’t actually “mind” how much we spend in a month. I have told them that it’s really good to have a spending report. On November 15, I am actually leading the report. I will track down every expense (this is a try-out). Then, this will just cover a week. I will show the report to them afterwards. Let’s see what happens. I will refer to your report Emily.
    Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..I’m paying for G20 to come to town this weekend

    1. Emily says:

      Hey, that sounds great! I hope your parents are willing to look at your results and are inspired to make change. It’s hard to influence other people. :/

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