February 2015 Money Puddle and Spending Report

Finally FINALLY FINALLY we are in the black for this month! What a difference having two incomes makes! I had half a month of income from my fellowship (1/6 of the total for the 3-month period since I started on January 20) and all of my December contract work income, which was my highest ever at $1,208 for the month. Kyle had his normal postdoc income.


just after getting on the Metro one day - it's been cold here!

just after getting on the Metro one day – it’s been cold here!

While our spending was higher than was typical for us when we were both living in Durham, we didn’t have any crazy high one-time expenses like we seemed to have every month of my funemployment. It feels so nice to have money to put into our short-term savings instead of having to pull money out!


February was our first full month living apart so we are finally able to get a good sense of what our new monthly expenses are. (Of course, I’m already halfway through my fellowship, so that new knowledge won’t apply for long!) Transportation is very, very expensive. In February, we spent about four times as much on gas and Metro fares as we did on gas in a typical month in Durham.


I am chalking up our high grocery spending last month to start-up costs for my food at my parents’ place since our grocery spending this month was much lower. It turns out that 6 lbs of ground beef lasts a pretty long time when you’re the only person eating it!


I have a confession to make, though. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’m posting quite infrequently here, and that is because I feel I am so short on free time now. Another area that is getting short shrift is our financial bookkeeping. We’re still on time with our bills and using Mint so the basics are taken care of, mostly by Kyle. But I’ve gotten behind/confused with the transfers I wanted to make between our checking account and our General savings account, like moving my lump sum paycheck into savings and paying us monthly. Basically, at this point we are not zeroing out our checking account and in fact are keeping a buffer of a few thousand dollars in there. So while I am still calculating how much money we had “left over” this month, instead of going into saving it’s going to stay in checking. That’s not wrong or anything, but it is a change in our personal practices that I’m trying to get used to.


But to end this section on a positive note, our investment balances topped $100,000 for the first time this month! Thanks, federal student loans!



Money Puddle


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


February 2015 Money Puddle: $2,915.53


  • Kyle’s postdoc paycheck
  • Emily’s contract work paycheck
  • Emily’s fellowship paycheck





Housing and Utilities

  • rent $910: This is our rent for our Durham townhouse, which Kyle is currently living in alone. My parents are not charging me rent or utilities to live with them during my fellowship.
  • electricity $134.09: Yikes! Winter finally set in, I guess.
  • internet $34.99
  • cell phones $89.41: I’m still with Republic Wireless and very happy with it. Kyle paid his final bill with Verizon this month but has switched to Cricket Wireless. We paid a bill for them at the end of January and the next one wasn’t due until the beginning of March. Switching between post-paid and pre-paid has resulted in a couple months of higher expenses for his cell, but it will work out to be much lower cost starting in March.
  • water $0: We paid two water bills in January so none in February.



This category really kills right now when I’m living in the DC area between my daily Metro commuting and three trips to Durham.

  • gas $143.51
  • Metro $250
  • car insurance $131.28



Phew, reasonable grocery spending, though likely a bit below average as we were eating down January’s stock. Very high eating out spending for us, but I think we’re going to accept this for a while until I’m back in Durham.

  • groceries $266.17: We used to call Costco the hundred-dollar store, but we’ve definitely broken that habit as we’re each shopping for only one. We made only three Costco trips this month, with the lowest-spending on at only $8.58!
  • eating out $174.82: Surprisingly, most of our eating out spending has been during our weekends together. We went out to one nice dinner together and shared three other restaurant meals together (two were take-out). I ate out with other people three times and Kyle did once plus he walked with a friend to the Krispy Kreme that recently opened near us for a donut on one of his snow days.


Shopping and Personal Care

  • clothes $27: I bought some tights thinking it would eventually start to warm up, but no luck so far.
  • book $17.90: I bought a study for the church small group I’m attending in northern Virginia.
  • electronics $43.04: Kyle bought accessories for his Raspberry Pi.



  • student loan payment $98.46
  • dry cleaning $6.97
  • half-month gym membership for Kyle $15
  • drug store purchase $5.61


Reimbursed from Charitable Giving





Money Puddle: $2,915.53

Total Spending: $2,348.25

Difference: $567.28


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.)


Yes! Finally this question was simple to answer. We lived within our means this month.


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


No deficit!!!!


3: Did our net worth increase?


I think I’m going to take a pause on answering this question for the duration of my fellowship since I was only paid once at the beginning. But it all looks good, really.



I would be very happy to have months like this one in terms of its bottom line many times in the future. 🙂 In the weeds, though, there is a lot of room for improvement.



Have you gone through a period in which you couldn’t keep up the bookkeeping you had done in the past? How much can your grocery spending vary month-to-month? How would you try to mitigate high transportation costs?


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8 Responses to "February 2015 Money Puddle and Spending Report"

  1. Leigh says:

    Occasionally I go through a period of time where I can’t do my normal bookkeeping, e.g. during my New Zealand trip. What I usually do is beforehand, I double check that everything is on autopay and then I just check on my checking account on a day when I know something should happen. I also used a temporary spreadsheet to track our spending as we were going, inputting receipts every few days.

    I find that grocery spending varies a fair amount, mostly depending on how much of a month we were at home. The last few months we only spent ~$178, which is pretty cheap. I’m assuming March will be quite a bit more, but I guess we’ll see.

    I hope you’re enjoying your fellowship!!
    Leigh recently posted..2015 Savings Plan

    1. Emily says:

      The use of a temporary spreadsheet makes sense in that kind of situation until you have the proper time. I’m sure I would really enjoy the catch-up process! These busy times are why I like Mint so much – it takes so little time and effort to open it ou to check on something. It’s all the active stuff that has to be dropped. Well, Kyle is happy as he wants more passive money management anyway.

      I am enjoying the fellowship and my classmates a lot! The snow days and late opens help. 🙂 I feel like I’ve just gotten into a groove with work and my commute and such and I’m already over halfway finished.

  2. Mrs. PoP says:

    I think all the internal transfers you do would drive me batty and that’d be the first thing to go if life got hectic. At the end of each month, we just rebalance the cash in our checking accounts to our set buffer amounts, move $1000 to savings every month for Roth, and toss the rest into investments. Even that sometimes gets pushed back a couple of weeks because I don’t find the time to login to Vanguard twice for the investments. =/
    Mrs. PoP recently posted..Happy Friday: Almost Finished Home Sweet Home

    1. Emily says:

      Oh, we consolidated most of our targeted saving accounts over 6 months ago so the internal transfers are way down – basically just charitable giving and taxes at this point (1 or perhaps 2 times per month each). It’s the rebalancing to buffer levels that I’m not doing! Thankfully I am still finding the time to enact our percentage-based budgeting, which is really the top priority, though it might take a few day after we receive the pay.

  3. Congrats on the investment balances ($100,000). Emily, I just hope that every month is always that good and it feels like we’re really saving more and more each month. Happy saving!
    Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..Saving Money On Non-perishables Online

    1. Emily says:

      Thank you, Jason, and same to you.

  4. Fiby says:

    Never had a month where I couldn’t keep up with bookkeeping, but I’ve only kept track of my expenses in detail since 05/2013.

    My highest grocery spending was $264.96 in 08/2013. And my lowest was zero(!!) in November 2013. Though I apparently ate out a lot that month ($135). I wasn’t as frugal then.
    Since I decided to eat out less, my grocery bill low was $107, but that was in December when I went to LA for 5 days and was at home with my parents for a week. And my high was $194.

    I’m sure you remember my solution to mitigating transportation costs – the bicycle =). I’m trying to work myself up to cycling in the rain also.

    Congrats on your $100k investment balance! They say the first $100k is the hardest.
    Fiby recently posted..How to Properly fill out a W-4 (Paycheck Withholding Form)

    1. Emily says:

      That’s quite a reasonable/low amount to spend on groceries IMO. I think when I was single my budget was $200/month. Great job keeping spending low in that area as well as for transportation.

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