December 2014 Money Puddle and Spending Report

December is always a crazy month between gifts, travel, and socializing, and this year was no exception. We spent two full weeks in California with Kyle’s parents in December, which obviously threw off our food and transportation spending quite a bit. Right before the end of our visit, we both got sick – me with a stomach bug and Kyle with a head cold. My stomach bug caused us to do some ‘emergency’ spending that we probably wouldn’t have had to do if we were at home.


photo of a photo during presents opening

me taking a photo of Kyle during presents opening

We meant to do all of our Christmas gift shopping in December (from laziness earlier in the fall), but my family of origin decided to delay our gift exchange until we see them in mid-January. Our budget for Kyle’s side of the family this year was $340 and our budget for my side this year is $200.


Being out of town threw off our financial routines. We actually forgot to pay one of our credit cards and got hit with a late fee! We thought we had it on auto-pay. Thankfully we paid it off immediately and got the fee waived. We also had planned to turn over our mid-term investments in 2014 to lock in our 0% long-term capital gains (not sure what our 2015 will look like financially), but we didn’t go through with the transactions because we were so distracted by traveling and being sick. We also intended to do some year-end charitable giving (from our designated savings account) but didn’t get to it, either! We can just do that in January though or whenever we get around to it because we aren’t itemizing our deductions in 2014 anyway. This was a great lesson to us to schedule transactions in advance of busy/stressful times with firm deadlines.


Plus side, we did pay off the 6.8% student loan that we planned to. Minus side, the interest rate on the rest of the loans reset to 2.33%.



Money Puddle


Our money puddle represents our gross income from November, 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).


December 2014 Money Puddle: $2,019.89


  • Kyle’s postdoc paycheck
  • Emily’s contract work paycheck
  • Kyle’s side hustle paycheck
  • extra state tax refund




Housing and Utilities

  • rent $910
  • electricity $93.83
  • internet $34.99
  • cell phones $96.33: One Republic Wireless phone and one Verizon phone.
  • water $38.19



Man, I thought that our transportation costs for our California trip were largely paid for last month with our flight. I guess they were, but we still had a bunch more transportation costs this month associated with the trip.

  • gas $132.72: Our gas usage was high this month because we did a lot of driving while in California to see friends and family.
  • registration renewal $150.71: This was for our car registration and inspection costs, including new windshield wipers.
  • transportation to/from airport $64.66: We took Lyft for the first time to the airport (though we learned they are actually not allowed to service RDU) and a cab back. The cab was way, way more expensive considering we used a first-time user discount code for Lyft.
  • parking $2: I paid for parking once while in Los Angeles.
  • checked bag $25: We checked a bag for our trip to California, which is atypical for us but we wanted to avoid shipping back the Christmas gifts we received. We used different airlines going out and coming back so the checked bag was free one way.



This was an out-of-whack category because of the half-travel month, but even so a bit different than we expected.

  • groceries $291.79: I was hoping that our grocery spending would be lower, considering we were gone half the month! We did occasionally pick up groceries while we were in California, but not much, so most of that spending was before we left town.
  • eating out $152.22: I’m actually pleased we were able to keep restaurant spending down to this level, considering what a social month it was! We went out to eat together twice before we left Durham, grabbed some fast food on our travel days, and ate out for at least one meal nearly every day we were in California! We paid for our meals when we were out with friends, but thankfully Kyle’s parents paid for all our meals when we were out with them.



You can see we overspent our Christmas budget for Kyle’s side of the family by a bit, but thankfully a lot of it was on gift cards.

  • Amazon for us: We spent $56.01 on an Amazon order for ourselves, $16.01 of which was from a gift card and $10 from a gift card buying deal. This was random stuff – a notebook, a personal care product, and an iPad case.
  • Christmas: We spent $260.64 out of pocket and $112.35 on gift cards on Christmas gifts (so far – we still haven’t shopped for my family!).



  • basketball $104.17: We bought partial share of another basketball season ticket. Too bad our university has totally devalued the season tickets for every game so far!
  • sick $28.97: We had a bit of unanticipated convenience spending (fluids, cleaning supplies) when I started vomiting while on a road trip.


Reimbursed from Charitable Giving





Money Puddle: $2,019.89

Total Spending: $2,416.22

Difference: $396.33


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 extended money puddle.


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


Yes, we saved more than $220.33 into our Roth IRAs this month.


3: Did our net worth increase?


Yes, our net worth was up this month by $751.


Once again, we overspent our cash (every month of my funemployment!) but our net worth still increased, and unlike last month we also saved more than we overspent. I think that’s pretty good for a December!



How did your December go (always a tough month financially)? Do you tend to spend more or miss deadlines when you get sick? Did you get in any year-end changes for your investments, charitable giving, or anything else you had to do for the tax year?


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14 Responses to "December 2014 Money Puddle and Spending Report"

  1. ervinshiznit says:

    I try to stock up on meds when they come on sale, before I get sick. But sometimes I don’t have whatever it is I need, and I just spend money on whatever’s convenient at the time. I think it’s reasonable when I’ve already saved a bunch of money from all of my other savings habits.
    Despite my holiday travel, I still managed to add to my savings last month. Using airline miles certainly helps =)

    And I don’t think it’s all bad that you missed out on capital gains harvesting – you would probably owe state tax on that capital gain.

    Oh yea and I saw one of my fellow students here link your post about earned income and how it relates to a Roth IRA. One of her friends commented on Facebook about linking it on the grad SWE page (I think she meant the Facebook page? Not sure). You’re getting noticed by at least a couple people around here apparently =)

    1. Emily says:

      You can’t do much to avoid spending on what you need when you are sick! I wasn’t going to allow myself to dehydrate during a full day of flying. 🙂

      As we want to change what we’re invested in there’s no avoiding selling and buying. I would have rather done it in 2014 but oh well.

      Hey, that is awesome, thanks for telling me. I can’t wait to have the equivalent information up on GSF so that I can start getting that one more attention. A page I keep updated will be better than a blog post (from 2012!).

  2. I actually think this is amazing considering how low your income was for the month and all the travel/presents. You have it (and way more) in savings, so you’re doing just fine as long as funemployment doesn’t go on forever — which of course it won’t.
    C@thesingledollar recently posted..December 2014 Net Worth Update

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah, it wasn’t too bad, considering Christmas and all! I’m excited for a higher income in the next couple months as my contract work picked up a bit.

      Only two weeks left of funemployment! 🙁 🙁 🙁

  3. Being away or on vacation for some time, I had one experience where I forgot to complete some stuff at work. Thus, when I was on vacation, I had to send files to my boss or do work late at night and it was really stressful and I kinda didn’t fully enjoy the trip. Lesson learned: make assure everything is settled like work tasks and bills. Happy New Year Emily!
    Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..Merry Christmas Everyone

    1. Emily says:

      Oh man, that is stressful. It’s so hard to remember everything when you’re in a rush and hard to fix an oversight once you’ve left.

  4. Mrs PoP says:

    Hope you’re feeling better! Mr PoP was pretty sick and it cost us a pretty penny, too. Oooh, and we bought windshield wipers. We’re like spending twins. kidding. =)

    Have a safe trip back!
    Mrs PoP recently posted..PoP Balance Sheet – December 2014

    1. Emily says:

      I’m recovered but Kyle is still convalescing. Thankfully my sickest days were before we traveled home. I don’t know about you, but we are told to buy new windshield wipers practically every year upon our inspection! I don’t know what it is about this car but it goes through them.

  5. dojo says:

    We tried to keep our expenses as low as possible since in our business the next 2 months are usually smaller and we also have to pay some taxes in January. I think we achieved our saving goal, even if we could have done better 😉
    dojo recently posted..Financial Resolutions for 2015

    1. Emily says:

      That’s good that you could anticipate those lean months and prepare, and congratulations on achieving your saving goal! I think it’s better to have saving goals than spending goals/reports, but I find spending reports easier.

  6. Jenna says:

    It sounds like a decent month. I hope you are feeling better!
    Jenna recently posted..Let’s Go, 2015! Brooke’s 2015 Goals

    1. Emily says:

      It was pretty good for a December. 🙂 I am, thank you!

  7. Being sick while traveling is the worst. Hope you’re all mended now! Our December spending was a bit higher than a normal month, but not too bad. We ended up being able to use our Amazon cash back points to buy our family Christmas gifts, which helped a lot! We’re traveling out to California later this month to see my family, so we’ll have to see how our spending shifts for January. Hope your 2015 is off to a wonderful start!
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted..December 2014 Expenditures

    1. Emily says:

      I was getting over my bug the day we traveled but Kyle actually discovered his cold by how poorly his head was able to adapt to the pressure changes. 🙁 He’s finally getting better now.

      Being able to use gift cards for some of the Christmas spending took a lot of the sting out of the spending. 🙂 I think we use our Amazon reward points throughout the year whenever we make purchases – do you save them for Christmas gifts?

      Enjoy your California trip! I hope the weather is wonderful!

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