March 2016 Budget Report

Life in Seattle is really starting to improve for us! There were many days in March that had no rain and/or were quite sunny. Near the end of the month, it got above 60 degrees F on a couple days! The start of daylight savings time has also been amazing – sometimes Kyle comes home when it’s still light out! We are also slowly strengthening our social ties.


One of the daffodil fields we visited on our retreat weekend.

One of the daffodil fields we visited on our retreat weekend.

Near the beginning of the month, we went on a retreat weekend as the culmination of a weekly marriage group we’ve been attending for the past several months. The group was designed as preventative maintenance for newlyweds exiting the honeymoon period, and even though Kyle and I have been married for over five years they let us sneak in. We had a great time connecting with each other and it was lovely to be in a new location for a weekend. We even made some tangible positive changes in our daily/weekly routine when we returned that we’ve kept up for the last few weeks, which is a great start. The cost of this weekend was only the lodging and food as the leaders were volunteers.


Visiting the Ballard Locks.

Visiting the Ballard Locks.

Near the end of the month, Kyle’s parents made an impromptu trip to Seattle to visit us. They came over a long weekend, so I hung out with them quite a bit while Kyle was at work, and we also did several activities all together over the weekend. Luckily, Kyle’s mom is a big NCAA basketball fan, so we were able to relax and watch some of the NCAA tournament games on TV together and we also went out to a watch party at a bar when our alma mater’s team played. Unlike the last Seattle staycation I took, this one was quite easy on our wallet as Kyle’s parents paid for virtually all the meals out and the one museum we visited. We did a lot of free activities around Seattle, like walking around the Seattle Center and the Ballard Locks and driving through Discovery Park and Fremont to look at the public art.


The big financial news for us this month was that we finally sold the car we’ve had in Durham for the last six months. This whole process has been a huge hassle because I didn’t have the car title and we ended up keeping it far longer than we should have, which cost us a bunch of money (more on that next week!). Anyway, with the proceeds of the car sale we achieved the emergency fund goal we set for ourselves a few months ago. Now we have to set another goal for our excess cash flow going forward. We should have two more boluses of money coming in April as I finish paying myself from my business in 2015 and we allow ourselves access to our self-tax refund. For now, it will just stay in our checking account creating a larger buffer for our irregular expenses until we decide to redirect it to our house down payment savings account, retirement accounts, or possibly mid-term investments.


This month we also finally started working on our tax return! (Why is this exiting to me?!) So far we are preparing our return ourselves without the aid of software or any professionals. We prepared nearly the whole return this way – we’re taking the standard deduction and not taking any aggressive business deductions so it wasn’t too difficult – but when we got to the investment section we started getting lost. We sold some taxable investments last year so for the first time we received 1099-Bs in addition to 1099-DIVs. We might have to turn to tax software just for this piece!


Sources of Income


Our budget is based on Kyle’s income alone. The discretionary portion of my contractor income went into our savings account. I didn’t pay myself from my business in March; I’ll pay myself once more for the remainder of my 2015 net income after we finalize our taxes.


Percentage-Based Budgeting


From Kyle’s net pay, we set aside/transfer:

  • 18% toward retirement
  • 10% for our tithe


Monthly Budget


I’m quite disappointed in our variable expense spending this month all around, though yet again I didn’t think our habits had changed.


Regular Expenses


Rent $1375 ($1375 budgeted)

Water/Sewer/Garbage $120 ($120 budgeted)

Phones $61.57 ($65 budgeted): Republic Wireless for me and Cricket Wireless for Kyle!

Internet $44.99 ($45 budgeted)

Netflix $21.90 ($22 budgeted)

Student Loan $98.32 ($99 budgeted)


Variable Expenses


Transit $55.25 ($50 budgeted): We filled up our car with gas twice and paid for parking six times. Five of those six times were <$3 but we paid to park at Pike Place once ($9).

Power $119.42 ($50 budgeted): “On” month for our power bill – hopefully the highest one we’ll see until next winter!

Groceries $660.49 ($500 budgeted): Ugh, fail. I don’t know why I have such an ambitious goal. I can’t even identify why our spending was so much higher this month – we didn’t host any parties or anything.

Restaurants $73.73 ($100 budgeted): We ate out a bunch of times this month, but Kyle’s parents paid for all but one of those meals. We also had dinner out together once at a bar to watch our alma mater’s basketball team play in the NCAA tournament.


Irregular Expenses


In total, we are allocating $950 per month (on average) to spend across five categories.


This month, we spent:

Cars -$105.06: We cancelled our insurance on our second car (in Durham) when we finally sold it, and this was the refund we received (~ 2 months).

Travel $353.29: Two nights of lodging and two meals out during our marriage retreat weekend.

Gifts $0

Appearance $0

Electronics $0




Our available miscellaneous money this month was the normal $55.88 plus we were refunded a $25 copay we paid last month. We spent $56.79, broken down as:

  • $5.88 on stamps
  • $40 on quarters for laundry
  • $10.91 on software


Bottom Line(s)


Monthly: Spent $2,630.67 of $2,426 budgeted – over!

Irregular: Spent $248.23 of $950 budgeted – under!

Miscellaneous: Spent $56.79 of $80.88 budgeted – under!


This month, we spent $2,935.69 of $3,456.88 available.


We’re now in a troubling pattern of over-spending our regular monthly budget and under-spending our irregular expenses budget, which is an indication that they both need to be adjusted. I could also find a way to re-incorporate some of my variable income into our budget now that we’ve saved a satisfactory emergency fund size.


How is spring shaping up in your city? Have you filed your tax return yet and what method did you use to prepare it?


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14 Responses to "March 2016 Budget Report"

  1. Fiby says:

    You’re not weird. At least, not to me. Preparing taxes are fun!

    Filing schedule D isn’t hard so long as you have good records and know the cost basis of the shares you sold (and all shares bought after Jan 1 2011? 2012? I forget have their basis tracked by your brokerage).
    I had to file form 8949 because I had to make an adjustment to the basis. That seemed hard at first but it’s pretty easy if you actually have the records of what adjustments to basis you need to make.

    Oftentimes tax software that covers schedule D is not free.

    If you want help with it I’m glad to provide help with the caveat that I am not an accountant by any means and you’re ultimately liable for your own tax returns.

    This was the first year I mailed mine with return receipt requested (I couldn’t file online with free file fillable forms – which everyone can do at any income level – I don’t know where that misconception comes from – because I have to attach a statement explaining my IRA recharacterization and there’s no option with free file fillable forms to upload a miscellaneous pdf). I’d always just mailed them with a simple stamp (or two) and never had any issues, but I figured I probably shouldn’t be doing that.

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah, this is the first time we’ve had to File Schedule D as our dividends never justified it before. I think my issue is that I’ve been following an instructions rabbit trail and I have no idea where it’s going/what the big picture is! I probably just need to learn more before diving into the instructions again. Yeah I’m resigned to paying for tax software if we decide to use it because business tax software isn’t free. I’ll get back to you about your offer to help after Kyle takes a look!

      That’s a shame you couldn’t submit online. I wonder if you could have submitted everything else and just mailed the remaining form? In any case, yeah, it will be nice to get that receipt so you aren’t wondering for 1-2 months if they received it!

      1. Fiby says:

        Big picture, my post on capital gains might help:

        There’s a part two post also, but it’s not relevant here.

        I doubt you can submit partially online and partially through mail. They process them differently (one has to go through a data entry process).
        I’ve been able to figure out if they received my forms based on whether I got my refund or they cashed my check, but this time I paid my taxes via cc before mailing them in (for a fee, but worth the points gathered). Though that’s not the real reason I sent with return receipt requested—I should’ve been doing that all along.

  2. Has it ever been a time that you used your income aside from Kyle’s? It is really good that Kyle’s income can cover all expenses. Congrats!

    1. Emily says:

      Yes, last fall we were using some of my income in our regular budget, but we adjusted it and things seem OK with just Kyle’s now.

  3. Melissa says:

    Literally how in the heck do you spend that much on groceries?! And that’s in addition to eating out?

    What are you eating?! I’m truly shocked.

    1. Emily says:

      Haha do you want me to post our meal plan or shopping lists? I honestly don’t know! We eat lots of fresh vegetables.

      1. Nicoleandmaggie says:

        Have you looked into CSA?

        1. Emily says:

          We had a CSA for several years in Durham but we haven’t looked for one here yet. Thanks for reminding me! I would love to have one again.

      2. Melissa says:

        Yes! I really would love to know. That just seems so expensive for 2 people!

  4. Kelly says:

    A few years ago when I had self employment income from contract editing, I bit the bullet and bought tax software (H&R Block). Went from owing a couple hundred to a refund of about $500. Figured it was worth the $25! Now I watch and buy the software when it goes on sale on amazon. Could probably do it myself, but it always picks up on things that I would have missed. You get 5 free federal e-files, so I usually split the cost with a friend or two and it makes everyone’s life easier 🙂

    1. Emily says:

      I’m always awed when people cite tax due turnarounds like yours… What did the software catch that you hadn’t? I like to think we’re aware of everything we want to deduct but of course I can’t be sure!

      So far we’re still chugging along doing everything manually. We’ve hit some roadblocks but actually learned quite a bit in the process. I’m going to keep my business records in 2016 slightly differently and perhaps make a small change in how I charge my clients.

      1. Kelly says:

        The strangest turnaround for me was actually last night using the software… I was all set, had my expected level of refund, then got to the part about health insurance. Said I had health insurance through my employer for all of 2015. When I finished that section, then my refund shot up by quite a bit! I am thinking they must automatically apply the penalty until you say you have insurance?

        1. Emily says:

          I hadn’t noticed that when I was playing with TurboTax earlier this year, but I wasn’t looking for it specifically and sort of ignored that section. 🙂

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