Monthly Budget Wrap-Up 4

January. February. March.

We’ve spent April being much more accountable with our spending, which brings with it a lot more peace of mind than we had in March. Unfortunately, now that we’re back to keeping careful track of our money, it’s become obvious we’re pretty consistently going over on our monthly variable costs allowance. This month we missed the $1000 mark by $266.62.

And yet our budget is still on plan and our debt-payoff still on track.

Clearly it’s time to re-evaluate.

When we started down this road we were going on the assumption that what we’d identified as our fixed expenses wouldn’t change much from month to month, and if they did, we’d either adjust by taking needed extras out of savings, or by putting unexpected windfalls onto the debt.

It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.

Starting out with the $1000/month goal was much easier when we had a full larder, a stocked freezer, wardrobes in good repair and a bunch of extra personal care products and unspent gift cards stashed around the house. We were able to use a lot of the funds we’d ordinarily have to spend on keeping ourselves fed and clothed to instead keep us social and entertained. We also had things around that were sunk costs, like our season’s hockey tickets – long since paid for, but instead of going to the games, we’d sell the tickets to get an influx of cash into our coffers and choose a cheaper activity.

One of my favourite pieces of financial advice (again from Gail Vaz-Oxlade) is: to make your budget balance, you need to either spend less or earn more. And we’ve found little ways to earn more every single month to add to that $1000. It’s not always by finding ways to bring more in, sometimes it’s because another budget category wasn’t fully utilized (our transportation budget always seems to come in under our budgeted amount).

We’ve realized over the past four months that $1000 for our basic food, clothing and entertainment needs is a lot less feasible than we originally thought. We still try to aim for it, and still opt for more frugal choices than we used to make, which is definite progress!

This means our debt isn’t being paid off any faster than we’d originally anticipated, but it is being paid off at the rate we’d set for ourselves, which is enough for me. At this pace, we’ll be debt-free by the end of October. Well within our original “end of the calendar year” target.

As I said back at the beginning of this exercise, working hard to pay off the debt is one thing. But when everything is said and done, building up sustainable financial habits to carry us into the future are far more important.

And for this month’s details:

Biggest Win: Our tax refunds. Last year we were hit with a huge bill that we weren’t expecting or prepared for. After that nasty surprise we approached tax planning through 2008 with the attention it deserves and have a nice sum back which has allowed us to attend the Provenance series – fun, fantastic events that also support a cause near and dear to our hearts.

Biggest Fail: For the first time in a long time, we can’t identify any major catastrophe that befell us that we couldn’t handle (we ended up having a car we were using towed – but our savings account is now more than robust enough to take care of a tow and a parking ticket) or horrible mistake we made. And that feels really, really good.

Debt Paid down in April: $2800

Amount left to go: $14,153.21

Discretionary spending for the month: $1266.62 and we’re okay with that.

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