Monthly Budget Wrap-Up 1

Neil and I made it through January, the first of 12 months in which we’re aiming to eat, drink and be merry on $1000/month in order to be free of our consumer debt by the end of 2009.

So, how’d we do?

Biggest Win: Sticking awfully close to our goal this month, which is MUCH closer than we’ve come, ever, to sticking to a budget & plan. I see this as a win, though Neil’s not so convinced. He’s still frustrated by our…

Biggest Fail: Receiving our un-budgeted-for property tax bill. Part of the perils of becoming a first-time taxpayer in a city in a new development – you never really know when these things will arrive and how much they will be when they do. I mean, we had some idea, but still weren’t adequately prepared for it.

Between this and clearing the last of the Christmas expenses off the Visa (Vendors who take THREE WEEKS to post charges? Seriously – take my damn money already and quit messing with my accounting.) we are basically in the same place we were when the year started, with the addition of a bit of money in our savings account. Whether those savings should really be there or be used to pay off debts, from an accounting perspective, is probably debatable. But it makes me feel better to have a little something socked away, so there it will stay, and we’ll keep plugging away on the rest of the plan in the meantime.

And now, the numbers:

Debt paid down for January: $2161.12

Amount left to go: $20,480

Discretionary spending for the month: $1040. That last $40 was a bit unexpected, and we actually spent it on the last days of the month and borrowed it from February. We’d ended up very near our favourite bulk food store in Richmond, and borrowing from February meant we would save ourselves the cost of a car trip in a few weeks.

Lessons Learned: The first half of the month seemed to go really smoothly, since we took out our $500 and cruised through, spending it by the 15th. The problem arose when we realized we had more expenses in the last half of the month than we’d initially thought, and we struggled to get through, especially the last week. We dove into our already established change jar for $10 for milk & eggs, and were grateful many times over for our well-stocked pantry and freezer. For February, we’ve tried to plan our $1000 with a whole-month view to allocate our funds better.

Another lesson happened as Neil and I were discussing how we felt about the month and how we did. I’ve already said I feel pretty good. Yes, we had an unexpected expense, but I think it’s more important that we paid off more than the amount of debt we’d planned on this month, and lived very close to our monthly spending goal.

This just goes to show that, as much as our goals are aligned for what we want to achieve regarding to money, Neil and I think of it in very different ways. Like most couples, it’s the number one thing we argue about – and it really comes down to wanting to achieve the same thing, but in the way that makes sense to us.

I am the spender in the relationship. I enjoy acquiring new things. They don’t have to be big or expensive – but having the luxury of buying a new lipstick or item of clothing when I want it, or even a small bouquet of flowers to have on the table, is important to me. This month was a big one in terms of learning to be happy with the trade-offs I’m making in order to stay on budget. The net result is that I acquired less and was happier with the things I did buy. That’s a big win for me.

Neil, however, is the saver. But his compulsive need to be debt free often ends up costing us more money, as evidenced by the number of cheques we bounce because he’s taken every penny in the account and transferred it to our line of credit, forgetting about pre-authorized payments still to come out. So for him, the unexpected tax bill has seriously harshed his buzz, because it’s yet another in a long string of months where an unexpected debit has come up and set us back again.

I’m just trying to stick to the plan and be optimistic that for February, we really have though of everything, and will remain able to stick with the plan and start making some real progress on this debt paydown.

(I’m re-reading this and it sounds very much like Neil is the realist, and I’m a bit of a delusional Pollyanna – what good is it to stick to a plan that doesn’t actually result in progress? I don’t know how to answer that, other than I need to feel like I made some progress, or I’m going to give up very quickly – anyone have any suggestions for me?)

How about you? Are you a spender or a saver, and what do you think about our progress so far?

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9 thoughts on “Monthly Budget Wrap-Up 1

  1. heather

    i’m a spender who has started saving.

    it began when i began to realize i should put away some money each month so that when my car insurance came due i wasn’t surprised, unprepared and would end up putting it on a credit card i never managed to pay off.

    then i started putting more money away each month to cover all those other once-per-year expenses which always seemed to sneak up on me: bcaa membership, webhosting bill, tenant insurance, etc.

    currently, there are no annual expenses i don’t already have the money for. it’s a good feeling.

    that led to signing up for my work’s canada savings bond program. they take money directly off my paycheque and it goes away where i can’t see it. that sum has saved my bacon several times.

    for the last year or so, i’ve had an aggressive emergency fund savings plan. in order to ensure i don’t acquire any more consumer debt, i realized the need to have some cash available at all times for any unexpected expenses: car repairs, broken teeth, emergency pants/bra replacements, etc.

    the funny thing is, even with all this saving going on, i’m still a spender. i feel antsy and uncomfortable if my budget is so tight that i don’t have any room for impulse purchases. sometimes, this has meant that i’m living on rice and ketchup for a few days before payday, but to be able to get that roll of film developed, buy myself some sushi for lunch or get new craft supplies is worth more to me than being ridiculously strict in regards to my budgeting.

    i actually now have a separate savings account titled “frivolous”. from that account i can buy anything i want which isn’t part of my allocated expenses. of course, i’m loathe to use the money in it because what if i want to buy something different tomorrow? 😉

  2. Sue

    I’m a recovering spender, myself. I definitely identify with your tendency to want to have little purchases “just because I can”.

    More on my blog… because otherwise I’ll just repost it there anyways.

  3. April

    I am the spender most definitely and my fiance is the saver. Well he likes to spend too but he pays the bills and is better at saving than I am. I’m the impulse buyer in the family. You need to come help us because we have pretty much the same amount of debt as you and Neil and we need to start paying down our credit cards because we have a baby coming in 7 months and need a car very soon. Any suggestions to help us?

  4. Riann

    Brook and I spend in different ways. He tends to spend on niggly little things (coffee) with sporadic big things (xbox), whereas I spend medium amounts (new blouse) with a frequency somewhere between his small and large purchases. We get around this by giving ourselves the same allowance. He can fritter his away on coffee while I can buy shoes without having to account for it.

    We have a formal savings plan to pay for our trip to Australia (for which nothing is being financed by credit) and anything left over after our other expenses has “down payment” written all over it. Our emergency fund is our joint account, which has a rebate level of $5000. We have gone under it once (cash flow mis-communication), and man did that bank fee burn.

  5. donna

    Spender. No question. I’m very, very bad for therapeutic shopping and instant gratification. I’m working up a decent “pay off consumer debt” program for myself, but so far the main inhibitor to my rampant spending has been “accounting for every penny I spend.” It’s much harder to justify that daily starbucks habit if I have to add it to my spreadsheet later.

    Nick & I haven’t combined our finances, and have no intention of doing so anytime soon. He’s still feeling the burn from having to pay off his ex for their mortgage, and I’m too damn stubborn to consider it anyway. With his income being more than twice mine, I already have attacks of (probably foolish) pride without needing to feel completely “kept”. I’m very, very particular about making sure I’m pulling my own weight, although admittedly he buys me pizza far too often without much reciprocation. 🙂

    I really, really like Heather’s idea of having a “frivolous” category. I currently have a unnamed sum set aside for discretionary purchases (excluding food, but including necessities like new shoes and non-necessities like gummy bears) … but may split that up further into “necessary purchases” and “frivolous crap” so that I don’t feel bad for buying the gummy bears when I still need new shoes very, very badly so I can stop wearing my expensive running shoes all the time. I *like* gummy bears, damnit! But the running shoes are *so* ugly…

  6. Jennerosity

    I’m definitely the saver while my husband is a recovering spender. But, I have to say, I’m an optimistic saver, because I’d side with you when you say that you did actually make progress this month. You now know about one more expense, which means it won’t surprise you again next year and you can plan for it.

    I’ll share two of the things that I’ve found helpful for maximizing my savings and still feeling like I’m getting to spend a bit just because I can.

    First, my husband and I also each have an allowance. We get the same amount each month. Like other people have mentioned, our spending here is completely up to our own discretion.

    The second thing might be more useful to Neil, since he’s the one transferring money around. I set up a private google calendar just for our monthly expenses and I have it set up to email me before the expense. This way, I’m not blindsided by those payments and I know exactly how much money I have to leave in the bank to handle the payment. I can also set up how far in advance I get warned about a payment. So, for those ones that come up less frequently, I can give myself more time to budget for it. Once the calendar is up and running, I rarely need to update it unless there is some change that I’ve made.

  7. Hannah

    I’m more of a saver than a spender. I really can’t bring myself to run up more debt than I can pay back on my next paycheque – even if it means getting a penalty on my phone bill because I blew the budget on something else. I do have a bad habit of borrowing from next month’s budget, though. This month I went to the Philippines – I thought I had enough cash saved up, but then it cost more than I expected so I maxed out the credit card, and I left a few bills unpaid because I’d already maxed out the card. (I keep my limit low, luckily.)

    When Ricky and I combine our finances, I can see some room for conflict for sure. He’s more of a spender, because he enjoys being able to just go out for a cheap beer whether or not it’s budgeted for. He’s also more likely to want to save up for a guitar or a motorbike or something. He might even buy it on credit if he can pay in back within six months. On the other hand, it drives him nuts that I’ll cover a budget shortfall by not paying the gas bill, and that’s before we’re even living together.

    I blow money on daily expenses, like eating lunch out, but I hate shopping for clothes or buying new things to clutter up the house. I’m more likely to blow the budget on a vacation. Still, though, I can’t bring myself to spend more money in one month than I can pay back the next month. I even paid for my master’s degree in cash because I didn’t want any debt.

    It sounds like the two of you are making progress on your debt, even if it’s slower going than you’d like. Way to go!

  8. Emma

    I’m a spender who is trying to become a saver. I’ve never stacked up major credit card debt (because I don’t have a credit card) but I always seemed to spend all my pennies up to the wire. For ages I conviced myself this was because I wasn’t earning very much (student stipend) but I have terrible frittering habits. I’ll see a top I really like for £40 and wont buy it because I can’t afford it but I’ll put the top back and go buy a cup of coffee, a couple of DVDs, a lipstick etc etc spending well over £40. I’m doing better and from 1st March I’ll start my new budget (inspired by your blog). I hope to add a bit more to my current debit repayments (student loans) and savings.

  9. Jenn

    I like Heather’s idea as well and am considering making a budget including a frivolous account. However, what Donna said about instant gratification has my name written all over it. I can’t help myself, I have a lot of days off and have nothing to do, and spending money certainly takes care of that! Last week I bought myself a card making kit for a wedding I’m attending in Kelowna in June, and though I opened it up, I haven’t even touched it since then. Did that $20 really need to come out of my account when it did? No, it could have waited until right before the wedding, in which case I may even have found a $4 card that says what I want to say better than I can. But did I take it back? no….

    The worst part about all this is that I’m paying huge rent on my own. Though I have posted requests for a roommate everwhere I can think of, I haven’t found one yet and am unfortunately spending like I have. I think the key for me is to definitely spend in accordance to the rent I’m paying now, so when a roommate does come along, I’ll have $600 extra in my account each month and can at least have a savings. I’ve only got $1200 in debt, but it’s all one credit card, which I promised myself once I got it would always stay below the recommended 35%. This has not happened either, so I’ll be sure to be paying close attention to what you guys are doing…for inspiration purposes!

    Thanks for being so honest and posting all your woes and successes online, it’s rare to find that!

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