November 2015 Budget Report

lovely tree on Kyle's walking commute

lovely tree on Kyle’s walking commute

Good things about this month:

  • I had two speaking gigs and finalized one last booking for 2015
  • college basketball has started
  • we celebrated Thanksgiving twice with local friends
  • we saw a friend from Durham while he was in town for a conference
  • there have been some sunny days


We did a pretty good job with our spending, too, even with Thanksgiving! We booked our Christmas travel and are really looking forward to that trip.


Sources of Income


Our budget is based on two sources of income: Kyle’s salary and my contractor income. Kyle’s salary is regular and my contractor income is irregular.


Percentage-Based Budgeting


From our gross pay, we set aside/transfer:

  • a generous amount for taxes between Kyle’s withholding at work and our self-withholding
  • 18% toward retirement (Roth IRAs so far this year and soon my solo 401(k))
  • 10% tithe


Monthly Budget


November is our second month with a regular budget for over a year! It went very differently than last month.


Regular Expenses


Rent $1,375 ($1375 budgeted)

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

Phones $61.47 ($65 budgeted): Republic Wireless for me and Cricket Wireless for Kyle!

Internet $44.99 ($45 budgeted)

Netflix $21.90 ($22)

Student Loan $98.32 ($99 budgeted)


Variable Expenses


Transit $27.59 ($50 budgeted): One gas fill-up and two instances of paying for parking (minimally!). We started a new activity this month that necessitates a 30-mile round-trip drive once per week so we expect our gas expenses to increase.

Power $91.03 ($50 budgeted): We found out last month that we are billed every other month for our power. Still not sure how we should account for this bimonthly bill in our budget…

Groceries $460.39 ($600 budgeted): SUCCESS!!!!!! Finally, we came in under our new (very generous) $600/month grocery spending target! Since we moved to Seattle, we’ve spent on groceries/household supplies per month $977.46 (August), $644.09 (September), and $658.54 (October). The lower spending this month was enabled by having stocked up on meat from Costco at the end of October. December should be pretty low spending as well because we will be out of town for 11 days. I don’t really think we’ve changed our shopping habits much, so I fear that this cost might bounce back above $600 in January unless stocking our fridge/freezer was the reason for the high spending originally.

Restaurants $127.50 ($150 budgeted): We went out together for two inexpensive meals, Kyle had one lunch out, and took a visiting friend out for a meal.


Irregular Expenses


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


This month, we spent:

Cars $496.18: A new car battery and six months of insurance on one car.

Travel $1,542.40: We spent $1,667.40 on our Christmas flights. $1,667.40! I don’t think we’ve ever spent so much money on flights for one trip. It is a three-legged flight from Seattle to Los Angeles to Washington, DC to Seattle but it was still a shock. We’re accustomed to paying about $400 for a round-trip cross-country ticket, but clearly these flights were far more expensive during this holiday period. We reduced the cost by redeeming $125 in credit card rewards. We are super excited to get to see both of our sets of parents during the same trip, though.

Gifts $0

my new jacket! (different colors)

my new jacket! (different colors)

Appearance $229.33: I bought a 3-in-1 jacket (inner liner, outer shell) for the new-to-us PNW weather. I really like it and I hope I’ll use it for a very long time. This is the first coat I have ever bought myself, if you can believe it. I’ve been using the same two coats (a light rain jacket and a pea coat) that my parents bought me in high school for the past 15-ish years. The rain jacket bit the dust right before our move last summer. Kyle has described the purple and teal color scheme as “very ‘90s” but I like it. 🙂

Electronics $0


Man, that was a swing from last month. We spent almost nothing on irregular expenses last month and 250% of our ‘allocation’ this month! That’s how irregular expenses go, though.




The amount of money available for miscellaneous expenses changes every month. It’s the unbudgeted money from Kyle’s paycheck plus the discretionary portion of my contractor paycheck. This month, the amount available was $401.30. However, we had no miscellaneous expenses!


Bottom Line(s)


Monthly: Spent $2,428.19 of $2,576 budgeted – under!

Irregular: Spent $2,267.91 of $950 budgeted – over!

Miscellaneous: Spent $0 of $176.54 budgeted – under!


This month, we spent $4,696.10 of $3,702.54 available. We now keep a buffer in our checking account to cover these kinds of overages.


I’m happy to have come in under budget for our monthly and miscellaneous categories. Our irregular expenses were crazy high this month, but that will smooth out over time.


Did Thanksgiving change your spending at all? What are your plans for the winter holidays?


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11 Responses to "November 2015 Budget Report"

  1. Fiby says:

    “November is our second month with a regular budget for over a year!”
    If only 2 out of the past 12+ months are “regular”, shouldn’t those 2 months be irregular and the rest regular? 😉

    But congrats on bringing your spending closer to your budget!

    Just curious, what’s included in the $22 for Netflix? Isn’t it normally like $8/month?

    Yeah that bimonthly bill is annoying. That’s really weird from a business perspective too. I guess they don’t like a more even revenue stream? I feel like that would increase the occurrence of late payments from their customers, because man a lot of people in this country can’t budget properly.

    I forget, are you guys still a one car household?

    Dang those are expensive flights! I’ve flown to Sydney for about that much (luckily, my school covered this because it was for a conference).

    1. Emily says:

      Streaming alone is $8 or thereabouts but we also get DVDs. We should probably drop this from 2 DVDs to 1 or maybe go to streaming alone since we use it so much more than the DVD service! This started as a gift that was being paid by a family member, but we took over the payments a few months ago and haven’t adjusted the service yet.

      I assume that they only want to check the meter or whatever they do 6 times per year instead of 12… Saves money on payroll? Maybe they are on a staggered schedule so the income is regular but from only half the customers at a time?

      I’m hedging about the car situation here on the blog until it’s resolved… We own and are insuring 2 cars currently. We are trying to sell one of them.

      Yikes, that makes me feel even worse about the flights! That’s holiday travel for you, though. We were constrained by Kyle’s vacation days to having to fly on one peak day (between Christmas and New Years), and the Christmas flight was pretty substantial, too.

      1. Fiby says:

        Ah the DVDs. How good is your local library’s selection of DVDs?

        Haha well they should just upgrade their meters to smart meters so they don’t have to send anyone out, and get the benefit of more data so they can load balance their power distribution a lot better…
        I feel like I’m spoiled by my power company’s smart meters. I chose to get daily energy reports emailed to me. It’s fun trying to minimize my electricity usage.

        Oof. I am not going to enjoy the day when I have to face work schedule constraints when trying to go on vacation….

        1. Emily says:

          IDK yet. I’ve only been to the library like once. Good idea, though.

          Kyle’s company offers a certain number of days off per year total instead of holidays plus vacation plus sick plus personal days. So that’s good because he could work on Thanksgiving, for example, and save his vacation for Christmas. But our problem this year is just that he hasn’t built up that many days yet. After he takes his leave over Christmas, he’ll only have 1 day remaining in case he gets sick! But this won’t be an issue for long.

          I’m very flexible, of course, and I could have flown on further-off-peak days, but we decided to stick together throughout the season this year instead of traveling separately.

          I actually prefer having a fixed number of vacation days to whatever was going on in grad school. We really didn’t take enough time off in the last several years. At Kyle’s job now it’s use it or lose it (to some extent) so everyone uses it.

          1. Fiby says:

            Ah that makes sense. The flexibility of that sounds pretty good.

            Haha maybe by the end of grad school I’ll wish for a fixed number of days off 😉

      2. Fiby says:


        My flight to Sydney (~$1600) was for one person.
        Your Christmas flights are for two people.

        /face palm.

  2. Leigh says:

    The other thing with electricity is that you pay different amounts at different times of the year. You can set it up in mint to budget for $X every two months but I honestly never found a pattern with my electricity bill other than that the same month year over year was very similar. Thankfully my boyfriend pays that now and I don’t have to even think about budgeting for it! I love that I’m the one who got all of the fixed costs.

    I finally switched to cricket wireless! I’m happy with it so far. It’s so nice not worrying about trying to connect to the wifi at work anymore because I actually have reception with data and more data available!

    I think we spend about $350-450/month on groceries for the two of us. (I don’t check on it that much since my boyfriend pays for that too…). We were each spending about $180/month on groceries before we moved in together, so this is pretty reasonable. Thanksgiving didn’t change my/our spending since my parents came to visit and they paid for some stuff, so I think everything stayed about the same. We mostly cook at home when they visit.

    Good luck with the double flying! I think my boyfriend paid about $1400 for both of our Christmas flights combined this year. I’m so thankful we don’t have to pay that to go see my parents too.

    1. Emily says:

      Nice job shifting those variable costs! They can be a real headache. I’m sure our electricity will be well up on the next billing cycle as we’re running the heat for much of the day now.

      I’m definitely impressed with your grocery spending! I think our costs have just crept up over the years, probably because of changes in diet. I might need to search out lower-cost grocers here in Seattle like I did in Durham.

      That’s also a pretty high spend for Christmas flights, but maybe it’s just par for the course this year. I’m really not pleased that we need to fly to see both sets of parents after always being within driving distance of one set!

  3. Emily, how do you deal with unexpected expenses?

    1. Emily says:

      Depends on the type and amount – and honestly these days there is not much that throws us for a loop. If we can fit it into one of our predefined regular or irregular budgeting categories, we do. If it’s small, our miscellaneous spending budget category should cover it. If it’s large, we can always depend on our short-term savings.

  4. […] on work apparel (Kyle’s workplace is casual), and our new outerwear will probably be limited to jackets and hiking […]

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