November 2014 Money Puddle and Spending Report

This was an INCREDIBLE month in terms of spending. I think it might be our highest spending month ever (post-wedding/honeymoon), or at least in the last couple years.


The big big spending outlay was that we finally bought a DSLR. We have desired this type of camera for a couple years and started saving for it 16 months ago. We no longer have targeted savings accounts, but the last balance on our camera account was more than what we spent on the camera, so that is good. We have two lenses for the camera right now and will probably add one or two more in time.


We had two other big purchases that would have come from targeted savings accounts if they still existed. It was really just a perfect storm! These are the types of purchases that we don’t mind drawing from savings, but the problem is that we’re no longer saving every month for these purchases.


Money Puddle


As I outlined in my previous post, our money puddle represents our gross income from October, 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). Our October income included some small reimbursements and redeeming credit card rewards.


November 2014 Money Puddle: $1,807.92




Housing and Utilities

This category was very typical or even slightly under budget.

  • rent $910
  • electricity $74.90
  • internet $34.99
  • cell phones $96.12: One Republic Wireless phone and one Verizon phone.
  • water $36.81



  • gas $140.79: Our normal gas spending plus our Thanksgiving travel. Kyle also filled up my parent’s car when we were driving it locally and declined to be reimbursed.
  • car insurance $437.47: Six months of insurance on our one vehicle.
  • flights $763.40: Our winter break travel.



Thanksgiving spread


  • groceries $460.12: We spent $425.12 on cards and $35 in cash. I’m not happy that we were over our old budget in this category of $420/month as I am very hard-core into meal planning now. I thought meal planning was supposed to reduce expenses, like, automatically! I’ve been sold a bill of goods…
  • eating out $67.45: We spent $61.45 on cards and $6 in cash. Kyle and I went out to eat together once this month and then he had three meals out on his own.



slightly manic look while unboxing


  • camera $1423.74
  • tripod $37.61



  • We withdrew $60 in cash back.
  • I paid a late fee at the local library of $3.


Reimbursed from Charitable Giving




Money Puddle: $1,807.92

Total Spending: $4,502.40

Difference: -$2,694.49


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


1: Did we overspend 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.)


Yes, we overspent our money puddle. Ha. Ha ha ha. I actually had to make a transfer mid-month to pay for the camera since that came directly out of checking.


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


No, not even close. We made less than $800 in Roth IRA contributions.


3: Did our net worth increase?


Miracle of miracles, yes – barely! Our net worth went up by $137. (We don’t count property, so the camera spending was not offset at all.) Thank goodness for investment returns!


This month was a bloodbath! But none of our purchases were unanticipated/out of place so we aren’t freaking out. The bottom bottom line still came out in the black, even though we had only 1/3 yeses.


How much are you spending on holiday travel between Thanksgiving and winter break? Have you given yourselves any presents yet in this holiday season? What was your highest spending month in the last year and what was the amount?


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22 Responses to "November 2014 Money Puddle and Spending Report"

  1. ervinshiznit says:

    I expected not to do any Black Friday shopping this year, but I actually did (sort of). I bought a $300 Target Gift card for $270 (they ran a promotion Friday morning). And I bought it at my local Target, which is coded as a grocery store, so I got $11.70 in cash back from my credit card. Add that to the already discounted card, and that’s a 13.9% discount! I buy plenty of stuff at Target normally, so this is great for me.
    I gave myself a present – a vacation to LA next week. But my dad paid for my ticket with miles that were about to expire, so there’s that =)

    My highest spending month was technically January at $6543, but that was because I only pay rent and school fees three times a year (on campus housing). So if I throw those out, then October at $1582, because I took a short vacation and bought a ton of bicycle stuff (I really love cycling – I’m at almost 800 miles since I started late July). But I should note that I move around transaction dates in the way I track spending – I bought airline tickets in September, but I moved the transaction date in YNAB, my budget software, to be the date of my flight in October.

    1. Emily says:

      That sounds like a good deal since you use Target heavily! I am not on the lookout for those types of deals, though Kyle actually bought one the other day for Amazon.

      Is on-campus housing popular among grad students at your university? The only people I’ve known at ours who did that were master’s students who were employed as RAs. I think it exists but it must be a very small number of units. Contrast that with UCSD and UCSF where nearby housing is totally unaffordable so getting on-campus housing is like winning the lottery! If you want to guest post about the pluses and minuses that you’ve observed I would like to host it.

      $1582 doesn’t seem like crazy spending to me, but maybe it would be higher if you weren’t cheating. 😉 Why do you move the dates around in your own tracking?

      1. ervinshiznit says:

        Yea it was one heck of a deal for that Target gc, I probably won’t get such a great deal for a while.

        Well I’m not quite sure how many grad student units are available, but it’s enough that my school guarantees housing if you apply by a certain date. And I’m pretty sure all the units are full. Considering it’s a two or four bedroom though, it’s pretty expensive – I plan on either moving out after spring, or becoming a resident advisor (comes with free housing + small stipend). I’d be up for a guest post! I have to gather some thoughts about it though.

        Haha well to be a real monthly spending figure the way normal people would calculate it, I’d have to add $1250 to that (total annual rent + school fee payments and divide by 12) to get $2862.
        I move the dates around for one of two reasons – to more easily track how much I spent on a vacation, and to track when I truly spent money.
        With the vacation thing, a vacation could straddle two months. But it’s certainly easier to realize that than to look at expenses incurred for a vacation in say May, and then have to remember that I actually bought the plane tickets in March.
        I move dates around for gift card purchases too. I create an account in YNAB for every gift card I buy. For the Target gift card example, I don’t record it as having spent $300 at Target in November. I itemize every transaction incurred on the gift card as it’s spent. I think it makes more sense because otherwise my spending gets really spikey – high when I buy a gift card, and then low when I’m using it.
        Oh and when I got reimbursed for conference related expenses, I record the reimbursement as having been received when I incurred the cost, not when I actually receive it. I do that because otherwise I can end up with months with negative spending in a category, and I just don’t like that.
        This date moving thing is why I don’t like
        Oh and this is kinda crazy – but for cash back on credit cards, I itemize all the cash back – so when I redeem say $10 in cash back, I say that I got 10 cents from purchase A, 12 cents from purchase B, etc….. It does take time to record it this way but I like it better to spread that cash back into the appropriate spending categories, as opposed to making one category for cc cash back redeemed.

        1. Emily says:

          That is involved but I understand your reasoning! It’s not like that data is lost, anyway, because your bank/credit cards will still have it recorded on the date the purchase went through. I also edit dates in Mint but it’s usually only by a day or two to make sure a purchase is recorded on the day it actually happened.

  2. Leigh says:

    I’m not spending anything on holiday travel this year! The last time we filled up the gas tank, we debated whose turn it was to pay and I ended up paying, so my boyfriend will pay for the next gas tank 🙂

    My highest spending month in the past year was January 2014 at $7,000! The abnormal portion was mostly my boyfriend and I buying tickets for a trip and me paying for half of the closet organizer installation and doing some painting beforehand.
    Leigh recently posted..November 2014 net worth update (+4.8%)

    1. Emily says:

      Does your family live in the same city as you or are you not seeing them this season?

      That is quite high! But understandable with those outlays, which I’m sure were highly planned. It just so happens that sometimes these expenditures fall in the same month.

      1. Leigh says:

        Oh no they don’t live in the same city. That story was supposed to imply that my boyfriend is buying the Christmas tank of gas, not me. We’re spending Christmas with my family this year 🙂
        Leigh recently posted..November 2014 net worth update (+4.8%)

        1. Emily says:

          Ah, but within 1 tank of gas for the round trip! So reasonably close. I hope you have a great holiday! Is this the first time your BF has not been with his family for the holidays? I was unexpectedly upset the first time I didn’t do Christmas with my family, but now it’s kind of meh.

          1. Leigh says:

            I hope you have a great holiday too! We spent last year apart since we had only been dating a few months when he bought flights for his Christmas trip home and it was terrible. I’m looking forward to this year! His parents were really generous and told him he should go to my family’s Christmas this year so we’ve actually managed to be in sync with all of his siblings! Next year will be expensive for flights to his family – probably $2,000 for the two of us 🙁 so this year’s half tank of gas is really awesome.

            This December is crazy between Christmas, my boyfriend officially moving in, the job transition, and organizing an overseas trip for between jobs. I am so looking forward to that vacation!!!

  3. J. Money says:

    I like that term “Money Puddle” 🙂

    That is all.

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks! Pile didn’t give the proper implication of smallness. 🙂

  4. E 2 says:

    This month has been bonkers for us too. We had a baby at the beginning, so floating a $1500 medical bill and hoping insurance will cover some of it retroactively was our biggest, and then we’ve spent about $600 on other baby stuff. Fortunately, we had it to spend, though the $1500 was supposed to go toward a new car so now we’re a step back
    (and unlikely to make it up until I graduate and get a job, yikes). Babies: yes they are expensive!

    1. Emily says:

      Heeeeeeeey CONGRATULATIONS! I would love to hear more about having a baby in grad school when you’re up for it. I’ve only known a few people who have and I’d like to be able to help other grad students when they are considering it (it was one of the submitted questions after my seminar).

      You know, $2100 isn’t terrible and hopefully some of those reimbursements will come. And you get the tax deduction for 2014 so that’s worth something. 😉

      1. E 2 says:

        Thanks! I figured best to do it while I have health insurance and can use student status to explain my time out of the workforce, rather than when I’m in a new job and taking maternity leave would be tough, or when the insurance situation is not so clear. Also, I just got kind of impatient waiting on my desires for “real life” to start, and didn’t want to wait any more!

        It is really tough financially though. I just wrote a comment with a lot of details and then decided it was maybe too self-identifying, because there are a lot of variables in our situation that are pretty specific. But suffice it to say that if you have three major financial issues/crises in one month (the baby being one, two others I won’t specify, but think the kind of major cost that most people only have once every few years), it’s really hard to figure out how to allocate your grad student savings and whether/when to look for credit or parental help.

        1. Emily says:

          Makes sense to me! It seems like good timing with finishing your dissertation and everything. I think if we had gotten married earlier Kyle and I would have tried to time a birth with writing up.

          I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had a tough month financially – just a bad coincidence, I guess. I hope this is a low point that you will quickly bounce back from (and that your insurance company will speed reimbursements).

  5. I’d love to get a DSLR down the road! I hope you’re enjoying it. We visited my family for Thanksgiving and we’ll be visiting again for Christmas, and it’s about a tank of gas to get there and back. Not too bad. I miss the rest of my family, but flying back to NY would have been way too costly. Hoping to get back there early next year. We did buy concert tickets as a treat for ourselves, but that’s it!
    Erin @ Journey to Saving recently posted..December Budget Preview (and How We’re Managing Our Finances)

    1. Emily says:

      The camera’s first use was to record my seminar! It’s a bit more involved than a point-and-shoot but even using it poorly produces much higher-quality images. I hope to master its use over the next year or so. 🙂

      A concert sounds like a great present!

  6. We’ll be visiting family over the holidays. They’re only 2.5 hours away though. So we’ll probably be spending a tank of gas and some treats. Not bad really.

    I haven’t bought myself any gifts, but my parents came for the weekend and brought me a little puzzle book.
    Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom recently posted..50% Savings Rate Challenge Accepted

    1. Emily says:

      Yes, that’s a pretty low-spending Christmas – but that is the best because it means you can focus on each other! That’s a good gift from your parents already – fun to do by yourself or with others.

  7. […] been three weeks since my last update but not a whole lot has gone on for us. Thanksgiving travel kind of dominated the period. Financial Peace University ended so I’m currently without a […]

  8. Jenna says:

    You finally bought your camera! Yay!

    Re: groceries – it was a 5 weekend month. Maybe that’s why you went over? We managed to spend $105 each week in groceries — our lowest in a long time. I’m going to aim for $100 a week this month, but I’m not sure how much more I’d reasonably like to cut.
    Jenna recently posted..Brooke’s December Budget Preview

    1. Emily says:

      Haha, good try, but I actually shop on Mondays now, so the dangerous months are 5-Monday months. 🙂 I find that our spending fluctuates a bit during the month so I don’t think I would shoot for a weekly limit. A huge portion of our grocery spending is at Costco and we end up freezing a good bit of meat, so that spending can spike when we run out.

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