December 2015 Budget Report

with Kyle's parents at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

with Kyle’s parents at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

We took an extra long Christmas break this year because we skipped out on traveling for Thanksgiving. Kyle used up all but one of his vacation days! We spent several days up through Christmas Eve with Kyle’s family in California, took a Christmas morning red-eye, then spent Christmas and several days following with my family in Virginia, and returned to Seattle for New Years Eve. The month was fairly normal spending-wise except for the 11 days we were traveling.


My energy and attention levels with respect to blogging and the PF blogosphere were very low in November and December but I’m turning that around in January! Expect lots more posts and comments from me through the spring.


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


We did fairly well with our budget this month. The categories we went over budget in were due to our Christmas travel, but the travel also caused us to come in far under budget in another category.


Regular Expenses


Rent $1375 ($1375 budgeted)


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


Phones $61.43 ($65 budgeted): Republic Wireless for me and Cricket Wireless for Kyle! I’m happy both Durham and Seattle have good Sprint and AT&T coverage.


Internet $44.99 ($45 budgeted)


Netflix $21.90 ($22 budgeted)


Student Loan $98.32 ($99 budgeted)


Variable Expenses


Transit $56.56 ($50 budgeted): Varied expenses this month due to our Christmas travel. One gas fill-up for our car, three instances of paying for parking, adding money to our public transit cards, and an Uber trip.


Power $0 ($50 budgeted): This is an “off” month for our power bill, but I expect it to be high next month. It’s pretty cold here and we have the heat on when we are home, which is much of the day.


an enormous and delicious meal that our friends treated us to

an enormous and delicious meal that our friends treated us to

Groceries $432.26 ($600 budgeted): I’m happy we’re under budget again, but it’s due in part to being out of town for a week and a half. We’ll see how January goes in this ongoing struggle.


Restaurants $216.82 ($150 budgeted): We went out for one meal in Seattle before our Christmas trip; we tried a new place with the largest pizza we’ve ever had. We paid for four meals out during our Christmas travels with family and friends and one convenience meal in an airport, and our family and friends took us out several more times as well.


Irregular Expenses


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


This month, we spent:


Cars $0


Travel $0


Gifts $671.81: All this was on Christmas gifts. This was our highest-spending year yet. We increased our per-recipient gift cap from $10 to $20 for the kids in Kyle’s extended family members at the last minute, which pushed us over our $600 estimated budget. Like in previous years, after adding it all up, I still don’t feel good about the amount of money we spent and wish that we could find another way of expressing our affection for our family members. (We additionally bought $111.08 of gifts for a charitable cause sponsored by our church, but I’m not including this in any of our totals as it came from our Charitable Giving savings account.)


Appearance $0


Electronics $0




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 $224.08 and we had two miscellaneous expenses totaling $32.61.

  • $19 for a chiropractic visit (my first!)
  • $13.61 to renew one of our personal domains
  • $40 for laundry quarters


Bottom Line(s)


Monthly: Spent $2,427.28 of $2,576 budgeted – under!


Irregular: Spent $671.81 of $950 budgeted – under!


Miscellaneous: Spent $72.61 of $224.08 budgeted – under!


This month, we spent $3,171.70 of $3,750.08 available. This excess just adds to the buffer in our checking account.


I’m happy that we came in so solidly under budget this month, but it’s going to take a while to make up for our massive overspending last month.


How did the holidays affect your spending this year?


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15 Responses to "December 2015 Budget Report"

  1. Happy New Year Emily! Congrats on under budget. Gifts are really a factor in our budget and to properly be in the budget, we limit it by setting a criteria and giving gift cards.

    1. Emily says:

      I don’t care to receive gift cards – except maybe to Amazon! – just because it seems I never get around to using them. Do you have a good system for using your gift cards?

  2. I don’t even want to look at our spending for this past month. I will eventually, but with all sorts of unexpected car trouble and vacation trouble and so on, it’s going to be pretty brutal.

    1. Emily says:

      I would easily feel that way if our Christmas travel and Christmas gift spending occurred in the same month, plus all the other irregular expenses that tend to crop up. At least some of your irregular spending was for fun purposes!

  3. Fiby says:

    Ah Korean food. The best! (There’s no bias there, obviously).

    Not much of an effect of the holidays on my budget. Got some cash for Christmas from my parents (and I gave them cash – it’s kinda silly).

    1. Emily says:

      I don’t think I’ve had Korean food before or at least not often but I definitely liked this place! Our friends brought us there.

      Come to think of it we did receive cash on top of some gifts for Christmas that I didn’t report here because I hadn’t deposited the checks by the end of the month. It does seems silly to just exchange cash but I sort of feel the same about gifts as well… :/

  4. Nice job! We were way over budget in December, but we are trying to get back on track now.

    1. Emily says:

      I think if there’s any month that is liable to wreak havoc on a budget, it’s December. We were really just fortunate that a lot of our costs were deferred onto our hosts. I’m sure you’ll rein it in for the New Year.

  5. James says:

    Hi Emily, great blog! I’m cleaning house (financially speaking) this New Year and was wondering where you keep your retirement savings. I know you mentioned in a post a long time ago that you and Kyle both independently chose Vanguard. But what’s your asset allocation/what funds do you guys use? Would be great for a blog post!

    1. Emily says:

      Hi James! We KISS and just use the Target Retirement Date 2050 Fund. Not much to explain there! Not saying it’s totally perfect for everyone but it was a good choice for us. We might move to managing 3 or 4 index funds on our own to be slightly more aggressive but frankly I don’t necessarily trust myself to do the rebalancing!

      1. James says:

        That makes perfect sense, and it’s what I’m doing currently too. Are your retirement savings entirely in Roths/401k/etc., or do you also have some taxable accounts too? I am thinking about opening a taxable account (due to saving more than I could in Roth IRA), but it seems like doing that might be easier on the taxes if I put my total stock market solely in taxable and then put bond index in Roth IRA. Just wanted to see what your thoughts are/if you have had a similar experience.

        1. Emily says:

          To this point, we’ve always had enough contribution room in our IRAs and workplace-based accounts that we don’t have any retirement-designated money in taxable accounts (we do have some non-retirement taxable investments). I haven’t looked into this issue much but I’m confident that there is information available online on just this question. However, I from what I recall I would have said the reverse that you did – put the stocks in the tax-advantaged account and the bonds in the taxable account because of the greater growth potential of the former. It might not be easier for taxes but wouldn’t you pay less overall?

          1. Fiby says:

            Generally speaking the advice is to put bonds in a retirement account and stocks in a taxable. The bonds do grow slower, but virtually all of their return is through interest, which would be taxed at your marginal rate if they are put in a taxable account. Meanwhile, stocks aren’t taxed unless they issue dividends or are sold. And dividends can qualify as qualified dividends which are taxed on long term capital gains rates if you hold them long enough.

          2. Emily says:

            Thanks for the great info!

  6. […] tracking/categorizing, etc. Budgeting is such a personal matter, anyway, that you should just find your own way and not spend too much time learning how other people do […]

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