August 2015 Money Puddle and Spending Report

I was wrong about this month being a bloodbath on the income side. I mean, I was right about that, but this month was also a bloodbath on the expenses side! We had to furnish our apartment with a few new items we didn’t need in Durham and also stock our fridge and cabinets with food and household consumables. Those expenses were all distributed across “Groceries” and “Furnishings” in probably not a very consistent manner, but I don’t feel like going through our receipts line by line to delineate everything properly. (We’ve been shopping a lot through Amazon and at Fred Meyer, which is sort of like Target, so everything is kind of mixed together.) We also had a lot of transportation-related expenses due to getting new licenses and insurance in Washington.


We are majorly in the red this month, as expected, because this month was funded by only a partial paycheck of Kyle’s and a full paycheck from my part-time work. Thankfully, we received a reimbursement from our Durham leasing office for our security deposit and not-needed rent.


checking out (what passes for) a beach in Seattle ;)

checking out (what passes for) a beach in Seattle 😉

Basically, we are just settling into our new place and trying to normalize our spending. September should look more like a typical spending month for us as we’ll have all our new bills going on and (I hope) no more expenses related to making the apartment livable. However, our income to our September money puddle is going to be low because Kyle only received one bimonthly paycheck in August; the second arrived on September 1 and therefor will go toward our October money puddle.


One other thing that happened this month was that I tried and failed to sell my car in Durham. It’s a looooong story that I probably should post about separately so no one makes the myriad mistakes that I have, but… Basically, we left my car in Durham with a friend because we didn’t have the proper documentation to sell the car. I went back to Durham in August to speak at my alma mater during orientation, and I was hoping to sell the car during that trip, having received the documentation in the intervening time. Well, it didn’t come and I couldn’t sell it without the documentation, so now we need to sell it long-distance. Ugh! Ongoing saga. It took a lot of my time during the trip just to get quotes for the car and so forth, which stunk because I had less time to visit with my friends.


Money Puddle


Our money puddle represents our gross income from July, 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). The one aberration this month from our percentage-based model was that Kyle had a full month’s income worth of contributions sent to his 403(b) instead of a part-month. (We save 15%, but this was above 30%.)


August 2015 Money Puddle: $977.46


  • Kyle’s postdoc paycheck (part of a month)
  • Emily’s contract work paycheck




Housing and Utilities

  • rent $1375 (Seattle, full month)
  • rent reimbursement -$358.71 (Durham)
  • water $120
  • electricity $62.96 (partial month in Durham)
  • internet $0: Our new Seattle bill hasn’t caught up with us yet.
  • cell phones $61.53: This month, we had our normal cell phone costs of $26.53 for Republic Wireless and $35 for Cricket Wireless.
  • insurance $125: On the last day of the month, we bought a year of renter’s insurance.



  • groceries $937.75: Holy cow, this is crazy. It makes sense that we would spend more on groceries this month than usual because of stocking our fridge (to the degree we’ve needed to so far), but I didn’t think it would be this much! In terms of non-food items, though, we bought a lot of cleaning supplies and paper and so forth. We had a housewarming party at the end of the month and spent a lot of money on food for that. I’d forgotten how expensive it is to follow recipes with fancy ingredients that you don’t already have on hand.
  • eating out $152.82: Early in the month, we went out for lunch or dinner a few times for convenience when we were out shopping or before we had our kitchen stocked. So the eating out calmed down toward the end of the month, except for two meals when we were out with other people and a couple lunches at work for Kyle. Oh yeah, work lunches are now a thing for him (from time to time).



  • gas $28.36: One fill-up this month, and not even a whole tank! I love how little we’re driving!
  • parking $36: But seemingly every time we drive downtown we have to pay for parking?? This seems untenable.
  • DMV $178: This seems terribly expensive, but it’s the base charge for getting two driver licenses!
  • car insurance $274.73: This is six months of car insurance on Kyle’s car. We switched to esurance (isn’t that how the slogan goes?) so this premium is way lower than what we were paying with Allstate, for slightly less coverage.



  • student loan payment $98.46
  • drugstore $8.13
  • furnishings $556.35: This includes our new furniture from Ikea as well as a bunch of other furnishings like lamps and fans and random stuff.
  • Netflix $21.48
  • SUP lesson Groupon $63: This is part of our effort to enjoy Seattle outdoor activities! We bought it in August but will use it in September.


Reimbursed from Charitable Giving





Money Puddle: $977.46

Total Spending: $3,740.72

Difference: -$2,763.26


Man alive, it’s going to take us a while to crawl out of the deficit we’ve created just this summer, not to mention the last year!


What unexpected expenses have you had when moving to a new place? Have you ever used esurance? When you shop at multi-departmental stores like Target and Amazon, do you split your spending from the receipt by category?


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28 Responses to "August 2015 Money Puddle and Spending Report"

  1. Leigh says:

    Yay for only one gas tank fill-up! What are you driving downtown for? Taking the bus would almost be cheaper if you’re spending a lot on parking. When I want to drive to a store, I usually end up going to one outside of the downtown core so I don’t pay for parking. I pretty much refuse to drive in the city too – ask the friends who try to bum rides off of me only to realize I’m not driving!

    I’ve checked esurance, but it’s never been the cheapest for me. This year, I ended up switching to the same insurance company as my HOA master policy is with because they were much cheaper. I have an umbrella policy and most carriers force you to set your auto liability to the maximum with an umbrella policy, but this carrier let me set it to whatever I wanted, which saved some money.

    My August money puddle was around $400! I’m so looking forward to getting paychecks again in September. This has been such a weird year.

    1. Emily says:

      TBH… and I don’t like throwing Kyle under the bus, but… I think we parked downtown together once to get our licenses. Expedience was important in that case because he was going in late to work to get that done. The other 2-3 instances of paying for parking were when Kyle was alone. I think once was for work (and he said he could get it reimbursed, but he didn’t) and the rest were for shopping, but at stores that were only downtown or something. I agree that I prefer to drive a bit further than to go into or through downtown.

      That’s interesting about the auto policy thing. We’ve never bought an umbrella policy so I don’t really know how it interacts with the rest of the insurance. This was the first time I ever checked ensurance, and it was a bit less expensive than the lowest-price mainstream company.

      You have had a crazy year for income! Are you planning to do something similar in 2016 – minus the job transitions?

      1. Leigh says:

        I split all of my receipts. All of them! I don’t split the joint ones though. When our groceries were super high the first few months of 2014, I went back and took a look at where our spending was since it was all via grocery delivery and discovered that a ton of it was spices, cutting boards and the like…

        I am going to do something similar in 2016, minus the job transitions. I’ll spend January-June frontloading my retirement accounts. My money puddle should be enough to cover my expenses 9 out of 12 months though. I saved up enough to pay for 95% of grad school (just need to top it off) and am paying for it out of that savings account, so when my employer reimburses me, then I will just use the reimbursements for my money puddle and the ESPP and stock sales for my money puddle as well.

        1. Emily says:

          I’m definitely appreciating the cost of setting up a full kitchen quickly! We did keep our spices in the most, but everything that needed to be cold or was bulky was thrown out. We’re just buying things as the need comes up… like a few days ago Kyle bought a 50 lb bag of rice!

          I really admire your long-term financial planning. I’ve been feeling directionless since we graduated, and having more income now sort of makes it worse, actually. I think Kyle and I might need to have a mini marriage retreat to really dig into what our overall goals are so we can figure out where to put our money.

          1. Leigh says:

            Awww thanks! It has been three years since I had a life change that necessitated much change in my financial planning, which helps with the settled feeling.

            Heh I definitely remember the directionless feeling. It still comes up from time to time, especially with the fact that none of my goals will be accomplished in under two years and once the mortgage is paid off, it’s just saving for retirement. It’s kind of freeing though!

            A mini-marriage retreat to dig into your overall goals sounds like a great idea! You might find that you want to increase your retirement savings % if you’re not planning on buying a house/condo in the next few years, for example.

          2. Emily says:

            Well, that’s kind of the big question for us. We’re not planning to buy in Seattle, but we do want to buy I would say within 5 years in San Diego, which would require an enormous down payment. And with a <=5 year time horizon, we wouldn't put the money in retirement accounts or invest it as aggressively as we do for retirement. Or maybe we can load up on retirement savings now and be willing to downshift our retirement saving rate when buying a house becomes more imminent. All fine choices, really.

          3. Leigh says:

            I would probably also run a retirement calculator to see how you’re doing on retirement savings for your age and desired expenses, now that you’re out of grad school. You guys did a good job of saving % wise in grad school, but how are you doing $ wise? That would then tell you how much you need to save each year to meet your retirement goal. It’s a matter of load balancing between retirement savings and down payment savings. Which do you front load more? If you get into the 28% tax bracket, I would say that the tax savings from the retirement savings might be worthwhile, though the large down payment will also take a bit to save up. All fine choices, as you say, but it’s hard to pick between all good choices!

            What I did was to max out my retirement accounts and then save cash after that for a down payment, but I was in the 28% tax bracket and didn’t want to lose out on that tax savings. I decided I was okay with postponing buying a place for longer to max out my retirement accounts.

            I was most definitely not planning on buying in my current city when I moved here 5+ years ago. I didn’t plan on staying here more than 2-3 years at most, but I’m happily still here. So you never know where you’ll end up 😉

          4. Emily says:

            We really don’t have an income goal for retirement, so that’s why our strategy has always been to save as much as possible! I mean we could do some calculations with a wild guess, but never having lived in our desired forever city I think it would be pretty inaccurate. :/

            Once we start caring about reducing our taxes using traditional accounts might become the priority, but I think we’re a ways off from that yet.

            You’re right, perhaps Seattle will charm us and we’ll stay here! We’ve been enjoying the record-high number of hot days… I think we’ll know after we get through the first full year here.

  2. Fiby says:

    Wow that’s a lot in groceries! Though as you say it won’t be that high next month.

    Selling your car remotely….man that sucks. Good luck!

    I always split my transactions into YNAB based on category. It’s definitely more work, but I want that data.
    It’s not that bad though because in GA, there’s no sales tax on groceries, so they say subtotal taxed at 0%: X, subtotal taxed at 3%: Y.

    1. Emily says:

      No, I hope we’ll spend a normal amount of money on groceries/household goods in September. Although I think we’re developing a farmer’s market habit that is increasing our spending (which I’m happy about).

      Our friend who is housing the car is being VERY helpful and generous with his time. He’s pretty convinced he can sell it easily to a co-worker when we’re ready to list it.

      I used to split our receipts and may return to it. These last couple months have just been too busy for me to keep up with it, though! Having differential sales tax makes it a lot easier.

      1. Fiby says:

        I screwed up: it’s reduced sales tax on groceries (because there’s either no state sales tax or no county sales tax, I forget which it is). Regardless, the point is, they’re taxed at different rates from all other spending.

        I’ve started putting plans together to create my own budgeting and tracking software actually. It would all be manual entry, because that’s the way I like doing it, but it would do some stuff automatically. Things like when I enter a cc transaction, it would create a transaction in the cc cash back account recording the cash back earned for that transaction.
        I currently do all of this manually in YNAB, and it definitely takes longer to enter transactions. But I do it so I can establish my true cost (when I’m getting 5% back on groceries from my Sallie Mae, that’s a big deal).

        1. Emily says:

          I think some finance nerds – like me to some extent – would really like that software. I used to do a lot of accounting on the side for what Mint didn’t handle very well. It’s probably pretty niche though! Are you developing the software just for yourself or do you want to release/sell it?

          1. Fiby says:

            My first priority is to develop it for myself. But I do want to try to sell it at some point.

            I still need to get it off the ground though 😉 It’s still in the planning stages – I haven’t written a single line of code yet!

          2. Emily says:

            If you do get it on the market, I’d love to share its story on GSF’s side income series. Passive income is elusive in grad school but not impossible! Plus, there may be other grad student money nerds who would want to buy it!

          3. Leigh says:

            Heh, I started it so long ago now that I can’t run it on any computer other than my desktop… I started it in 2009 (near the end of undergrad) with the then-current version of Ruby on Rails. I’m trying to convince my boyfriend to upgrade the Ruby and Rails >:D

        2. Leigh says:

          I’ve actually written my own software! It does just about everything across managing my finances except allow you to set a budget. It was a HUGE amount of work upfront, but it is invaluable to me and requires very little continued maintenance except when I want to add features and then it is fun! I have no desire to monetize mine though.

          1. Emily says:

            That so cool! You could make it available to others for free (if you haven’t already). 🙂

          2. Fiby says:

            What Emily said!

            What language did you write it in?

  3. I think the amount for eating out is a bit higher compared with your previous month. And the groceries…. what happened? It was really a huge amount Emily. But, I think you gotta control this month. Good luck and congrats!

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah, like 100% higher! Ack! We went from zero food in the house to a decent amount. Also lots of cleaning supplies, toilet paper/paper towels, etc. Had to get the new house livable

      If next month is over $500 I’m going to take a closer look!

  4. I moved back in April and we’re still spending to get this place together. There’s just so much to cover when you first move.

    1. Emily says:

      Wow, that is quite a while! I suppose the frequency of new purchases decreases, though. I’m sure it will take us a year to properly prepare for all the seasons here in Seattle – we haven’t bought rain jackets yet!

  5. Hannah says:

    Moves are rough on finances (I should know, I’ve done it 5 times in six years), but it usually just takes one or two months to get back into the swing of things. Plus, you probably don’t know where the cheap groceries are, how you’ll prefer to shop etc, so don’t worry too much about the grocery spend. We ended up having to buy microwave safe bowls, plates, and spoons when we moved to Raleigh because our moving truck decided to spend two weeks in Pittsburgh.

    1. Emily says:

      Good points. Maybe I should start keeping a grocery pricebook again to compare stores – it’s been a few years!

      That is such a pain about having to buy duplicates of things you already have just for convenience!

  6. Moves are tough. When we moved down here, we had to jettison a bunch of furniture. So we ran around to a bunch of thrift stores and to pick up some Craigslist stuff, which wasn’t great on the gas bill. It also meant a bunch of spending that our budget wasn’t prepared for.

    We also drove all the way down (1,500 miles). That was not good on our already problematic health. So lots of convenience food for the first couple of weeks we were here.

    Eesh, I definitely don’t miss Seattle rent. Almost everything else though… Sigh. Assuming you’re in Seattle proper, head over to the U-District and get some Thai Tom’s for me. I need to live vicariously through people now.

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah, moving really does throw things off both in advance and for months following! No wonder people avoid it… 🙂 This was our first big long-distance move so it was new to us. September should be mostly normal and I hope October will be fully normal.

      Thanks for the Thai recommendation! We’re still searching for what will be our favorite place and the U-District isn’t too far.

    1. Emily says:

      Woah, this is cool… I’ll have to try it out! Thanks!

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