April 2015 Money Puddle and Spending Report

THE LIFE - working on my business while enjoying the CA sunshine

THE LIFE – working on my business while enjoying the CA sunshine

This month, I transitioned from living in the DC area with my parents to living in Durham with Kyle again. So we had a half-month of my DC expenses (public transport, gas to get between the cities) and a half-month of our normal Durham expenses. We had a nice fat income because we were both working full-time in March and fairly low-ish expenses. We still were not focused in April on keeping our discretionary spending super low, though we should start trying to do that again now that we’re living in the same city and only have one full-time income.


I also went to Los Angeles this month for a speaking trip (expenses paid, so they don’t appear here). It was a welcome change from the winter I had just left in DC.


We had some unusual extra purchases this month. We bought a flight to a wedding next month that was rather expensive. We shouldn’t have waited so long, but we were a bit disorganized from not being in the same state most of the month. Kyle also went a bit wild with the electronics spending toward the end of the month and bought some useful things that are definitely not ‘needs.’


Next month, we hope to switch Kyle’s retirement contribution from our Roth IRAs to a new Roth 403(b) at our university. We finished up our 2014 Roth IRA contributions in April so it’s time to reconsider our retirement saving plan. We may not need the 403(b) in terms of contribution room, but just to be on the safe side we’re going to start diverting the 15% of his income that we save to there. It’s very unclear what my income will be later in the year and whether I’ll have my own workplace-based retirement account, but in the case that I make a lot of self-employment income it’s easier to contribute to Kyle’s Roth 403(b) (and roll to his IRA when he leaves our university) than to open a self-employment retirement account.


Money Puddle


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


April 2015 Money Puddle: $3,326.71

Not quite as much as last month, but enough to celebrate!


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





Overall, our spending for this month was pretty reasonable for our current life situation. We are not trying super hard to be frugal and are giving ourselves extra leeway because of the difficulty in coordinating between two households.


Housing and Utilities

  • rent $910: This is our rent for our Durham townhouse, which Kyle was living in alone. My parents did not charge me rent or utilities to live with them during my fellowship.
  • electricity $76.95: Nice spring no-heating/cooling period.
  • internet $34.99
  • cell phones $61.52: I love our new low cell bills! I have Republic Wireless and Kyle has Cricket Wireless.
  • water $24.09



I’m so glad this category is decreasing now and will be back to normal soon!

  • gas $132.33: Very high still, but that was because of two visits to see one another in early April plus my move back to Durham.
  • Metro $95
  • flight $800.40: We are going out of town for a wedding in May.



  • groceries $295.31: We were nicely under what we normally spend per month, I suppose for the opposite effect of what happened in January – recombining two households’ worth of food.
  • eating out $105.67: A little high here, but returning to normal!




  • Amazon $40.66: Kyle made a few electronics-related purchases and also a barber cape for his home haircuts.
  • Blu-Ray player $24.99: Our X-Box 360 died and apparently none of our other gaming consoles play movies properly (aspect ratio, surround sound), so Kyle bought a discounted Blu-Ray player.



  • student loan payment $98.46
  • late fee $25
  • intramural sports registration $5
  • postage for tax return $1.19
  • cash $15
  • appointment co-pay $25
  • dry cleaning $21.77


Reimbursed from Charitable Giving





Money Puddle: $3,326.71

Total Spending: $2,793.33

Difference: $533.38


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! Third month in a row that we have lived within our means!


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


We didn’t have a deficit!


3: Did our net worth increase?


I’m not officially calculating this, but I think so.



How is your spring going financially? Do you have any summer spending plans yet? What are your financial goals for next month?


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5 Responses to "April 2015 Money Puddle and Spending Report"

  1. Fiby says:

    My summer spending plans include a 50% reduction in my rent compared to the spring (I moved yesterday which is why I haven’t responded to your email yet…I’ll get to it soon haha). My spending has all been reasonable so far this year. Nothing big planned financially for the summer. I’m just on autopilot at this point really.

    You ever considered playing the miles game for flights? I play and it’s been rewarding so far. There’s always an effort:reward balance that everybody needs to evaluate for themselves though.

    1. Emily says:

      Wow, that is a big change in a big fixed expense! That is awesome. No problem on the delay. I’m looking forward to hearing about the new housing arrangement in your guest post. 😉

      We have considered focusing on miles rather than cash cc rewards. However, our willingness to vacation/travel has been very low for the last couple years as we’ve been focused on finishing grad school and getting jobs – and a lot of uncertainty has come with those processes. Basically, we haven’t felt that we can plan ahead to the degree that (I think) is necessary to travel hack. I would like to learn more about travel hacking when I can better predict when/where we want to travel. Also, we are constantly switching which airlines we fly – there doesn’t seem to be one or two best ones for our origination/destinations. You can let me know if any of my assumptions are incorrect…

      1. Fiby says:

        Yea I was really excited to find the place! It’ll pay dividends (almost literally, because I’ll be investing the difference).

        One point of view is to figure out what your plans are, and then get the miles on the airline that is best suited for the itinerary. Another approach is just to collect miles when there is a good opportunity (ie, when the signup bonus increases on a given travel card), and now you’ll have some miles that you could potentially use when the time comes. That’s what I’ve started to do – just collect miles when there’s a nice signup bonus and I’m sure I’ll travel at some point.

        As best as I recall, your home city is not a hub for any major airline, so almost all flights you take is going to route you through to a major airline hub (unless your destination is a hub). Probably why you keep switching airlines. This makes you and Kyle better candidates than I to just collect miles when a good opportunity arises – almost all flights you choose are going to be equally as bad (where I’ve equated having to transfer as being bad).

        Of course, you could get cards with cash signup bonuses instead and not defer your reward into the future. For me though, I like to build travel plans around miles – like how American Airlines has some nice off peak awards. Based on the chart I think my next vacation will be to Peru.

        I guess I didn’t really provide a clear answer, but I think that’s part of the nature of the game – you’re giving up cash to get a pseudo currency that is potentially worth more, but will probably take longer to redeem and may be devalued significantly by the time you go to spend it.

  2. […] Kyle’s last day of work at our graduate university was July 13. I did the bare bones work necessary on my business in the first couple weeks of July (no contract work), and then did almost no work while we were traveling. Kyle’s paycheck in July was painfully/hilariously small because of his half-month of work and normal amount of payroll deductions (insurance, 403(b)). […]

  3. […] I didn’t quite know it at the time, but last fall, just after my PhD defense, I started a business teaching early-career PhDs about personal finance. (Well, for a related endeavor, I suppose you can trace my entrepreneurship to when Kyle and I started EPF.) During my funemployment, I developed my first product, a live presentation, which I sold for the first time this past spring. […]

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