February 2019 Budget

Ellie helping to make west african peanut soup, a staple in our house

Ellie helping to make west african peanut soup, a staple in our house

What I’m most excited about in this month’s budget is the fact that our grocery bill is the lowest it’s been since we started tracking our spending in 2016 (~14% or $650). We budget 20.48% of our monthly income to groceries (which amounts to $935). This is still more than we’d like to spend a month on groceries (for 2 adults and 1 toddler), but we are also realistic about our spending. I don’t want to set the budget at a number that we’re going to consistently go over each month and have to figure out where to pull the extra money from. I’d rather set it at a number we can consistently achieve (based on our average from the past year of ~$900) and then slowly get it down. In November I moved the amount down to $935 from $950 and we’ve been under each month. If we can continue to keep it under $800 for a few more months I may consider adjusting this amount again. I think a few of the things that have helped us rein in this spending area over these past few years are 1) tracking everything (including a few months where I entered each item on our grocery receipts into a spreadsheet), 2) cutting down on meat consumption and only buying it when it’s on sale, 3) when something we use regularly is on sale, stock up on it, 4) cutting down on Ellie’s pouch consumption, 5) being strategic about where we buy certain items, 6) making large batches of food for dinner, storing extras in the freezer for future meals, and 6) repeating meals.

What did we eat this month?

  • Breakfasts: Eggs (scrambled or fried), steamed broccoli, sweet potatoes/russet potatoes, a few slices of apple/pear/clementine, maybe a piece of toast

    • We eat this pretty much every day, and have been doing so for a long time.

  • Lunches: (1) Broccoli slaw/spinach salads with a little bit of chicken thighs or ground turkey, cranberries, rice, mushrooms, carrots plus dressing. (2) Stir fry veggies, chicken thighs or ground turkey, and rice.

  • Dinners: (1) Tacos with ground turkey. (2) West African peanut soup with rice. (3) Ikea style meatballs with gravy, egg noodles, roasted carrots, beets, or asparagus, and cranberry sauce. (4) Corn, black bean, and rice quesadillas. (5) Lentil and sweet potato stew with rice.

    • We usually do ~4 nights of each meal before moving on to the next one (and tacos appear multiple times a month). In February we had 2 nights where we went to other people’s houses for dinner and 1 night where we ordered take and bake pizza for under $10.

  • Snacks: banana oat muffins (mainly for Ellie), popcorn (that we pop on the stove), peanut butter puffs, pea crisps, fruit, carrots, nuts, yogurt/granola, cereal, crackers/cheese

  • For the most part, Ellie eats what we eat and we don’t do anything extra for her meals.

Now that you’ve gotten a full run down of what food looked like for us in February, let’s move on to the actual budget! Previous budget posts can be found here: December 2018 (first post with background information), January 2019.

february 2019 budget

Budgeted: 43.75%
Spent: 42.43%
Leftover: 1.32%
student loans

What’s included? Mortgage payment, property taxes, home insurance, home warranty, and any home improvement costs. Still have the spending moratorium on unnecessary home improvement stuff (which wasn’t a big chunk to begin with) so we’ve got a little bit of leftover.

Budgeted: 20.48%
Spent: 14.24%
Leftover: 6.24%
student loans

What’s included? Food, non-food cooking stuff, toiletries, cat supplies, cleaning supplies, paper products, pharmacy… anything you can buy at the grocery store.  

Budgeted: 7.74%
Spent: 7.15%
Leftover: 0.59%
student loans

What’s included? Electric, gas, water, and trash.
Our trash bill hits every other month, so this month was slightly higher. I have our budget setup so that we set aside half of the trash bill on the months where we don’t get an actual bill (so it just stays in the checking account) and the other half on the months we do get a bill. While our actual trash expenses for the month look like we have overspent, the leftover from the previous month covers the additional amount.

Travel related expenses
Budgeted: 7.81%
Spent: 3.14%
Leftover: 3.93%
savings for yearly bills and our travel fund; 0.74% student loans

What’s included? Car insurance, gas, registration (billed every 2 years), AAA (billed once a year), savings for a car maintenance fund, and a general travel fund for family visits and smaller local trips.  

Budgeted: 3.78%
Spent: 2.75%
leftover: .77%
Student loans; 0.26% miscellaneous expenses that were over this month

What’s included? Phone bills, phone insurance, internet
Phones are paid off so our phone bill dipped a bit. My phone isn’t in the best condition though… there are some quirky things going on with it, but I also don’t really want to pay for a new one or think about the logistics of this right now. So… I’ll likely wait until the school year is over to figure out what my options are.

Budgeted: 1.86%
Spent: 0.66%
Leftover: 0.33%
workout fund; 0.87% student loans

What’s included? doctor’s bills (we also have an FSA but keep this additional fund to give us a little more padding just in case), a gym membership, and a savings fund for a summer bootcamp.

Budgeted: 1.67%
Spent: 0.87%
bills: 1.06%
savings for yearly bills (pulled 0.26% from phone/internet fund to cover difference)

What’s included? a random assortment of things… jewelry insurance (billed once a year), a once a year haircut for me, Netflix, Prime membership (billed once a year), website hosting (billed once a year), and just a general miscellaneous category. For the things that are billed once a year, I just divide them by 12 and include it as a line on our budget each month, putting it into savings each month, letting it earn a tiny bit of interest.

You might notice that the amount needed to go towards yearly bills is more than the amount leftover in this category. That’s because we overspent this month. We had a few preschool application fees (which I don’t have a category for) that went into the miscellaneous part of our budget. We were over by 0.26% and “pulled” the extra money from the excess in our phone/internet fund.

Dining out/entertainment
Budgeted: 1.20%
Spent: 1.06%
leftover: 0.14%
student loans

What’s included? Dining out/take out, museums, kid stuff (e.g., a class at the rec center for Ellie)
Mike signed Ellie up for Judo, where it sounds like they jump off of things onto mats (which is Ellie’s favorite pastime), so that is where the bulk of this is coming from. Gotta get through those final gray days of winter!

Budgeted: 1.10%
spent: 0%
Leftover: 1.10%
gift savings fund

What’s included? Gifts, mainly for Ellie, sometimes for the occasional wedding or new baby. Mike and I don’t buy each other gifts (aside from the occasional food item during holidays/birthdays). We’ve got a gift moratorium going on for family/friends. Anything left over in this category gets put into our savings until we need it.  

Budgeted: 0.55%
Spent: 0%
leftover: 0.55%
clothing savings fund

What’s included? Clothes (pretty self explanatory)

Student loans
Budgeted: 10.05%
Spent: 10.05%
leftovers from above categories: 10.16%

What’s included: Mike’s student loan payments and my student loan payments. The % budgeted/spent reflects our bottom line payment (e.g., our minimum payment amounts, plus a little extra on Mike’s so interest doesn’t accrue). In February we were able to put an additional ~$800 towards Mike’s largest loan from January’s leftover funds. With our tax refund, plus my cost of living bump for the year, plus some extra cash from a mini grant I got, plus a few reimbursements, we have a decent amount to put towards loans for March (which should be able to knock out another one of Mike’s loans).

December 2018 to February 2019 Student loan totals

December 2018 to February 2019 Student loan totals