March 2019 Budget

Our loan tracker that lives on our fridge. Each box = $100. We’ve gotta get through this whole side plus part of the back before our student loans are gone. Also, yes that is a sign to remind us to make sure the fridge door is closed!

Our loan tracker that lives on our fridge. Each box = $100. We’ve gotta get through this whole side plus part of the back before our student loans are gone. Also, yes that is a sign to remind us to make sure the fridge door is closed!

Taking a break from the moving posts to give you an update on our March budget. Our biggest win for the month is that we paid off another one of Mike’s loans!!! 🎉🎉🎉 Only $81,795 more dollars to go 😂… better than $100K+ back in December 2018… so we’re making progress.

Another win this month is that our grocery bill was under $900 again. I thought it was going to end up at $715, but we did a big grocery trip on the last day of March (which included supplies for a brunch gathering and snacks for a dinner gathering). I considered just putting the money from that trip (~$150) on April’s budget, but we were still well under $935, so I kept it with March’s numbers. Not quite as wonderful as February’s bill, but still an improvement… baby steps! Once summer hits (and we’re pulling from the money I set aside for summer salary for our income), I’m going to lower the grocery budget to $900.

And a final win, is that we took a trip this month and only needed to pull ~$80 from our travel savings bucket to cover some of the lodging costs. All other costs were contained within our grocery and dining out/entertainment budget. When we take trips, instead of spending a lot on restaurants, we try and stay in a place where we can do some basic cooking (even if that means we just bring our own electric griddle), and then buy (or bring) groceries we wouldn’t normally eat at home so it feels like we’re still treating ourselves. For example, for breakfast on our trip we made shredded potato pancakes, topped with a fried egg, mashed up avocado, and a delicious sour cream sauce (plus sriracha for me), and then some nice bread on the side. Not something we’d eat every day at home, so it was exciting to have it as a treat. Plus, we’re always finding restaurants to be a disappointment anyway (and we rush through everything because of Ellie), so right now it feels like our money is better spent on food we can make ourselves. We did treat ourselves to ice cream from Tillamook Creamery (and of course free cheese samples!).

Something I’m annoyed about… got my cost of living bump for the year in February, which then, of course means that everything else naturally goes up with it (which I realize is the point… but I still find it annoying). Internet bill went up, home warranty went up, prices at the grocery store went up, we’ve gotta work in preschool funds too (for the fall, but I’m starting to incorporate it now so we have it ready to go)… Our student loan payments will likely go up a bit too (but that won’t hit until later this year). I feel like I am forever tweaking our budget to account for changes (which is also the point too…), so next months budget will look slightly different. One of the things I’m realizing is that when I set the base amount we’ll need to have taken out of savings for the summer, I’m not accounting for any increasing bills. So by the time summer comes around, our base amount has actually gone up a little bit in some areas. Granted, I overestimate in some categories like utilities just to be safe, so in my 2 summers pulling from savings it’s never been a problem. However, I’m thinking about how to better account for changes so there are no surprises in summer.

Something to note about the numbers for travel and miscellaneous expenses below… they look out of hand because we’ve got some upcoming travel and purchased flights, etc. to prep. All the travel stuff will get reimbursed (from my work and from very generous family members). For work, I won’t get reimbursed right away, so I pulled from savings to cover the costs for the time being (and will reimburse ourselves once I get reimbursed from work). And then we used a portion of our tax return to get some emergency supplies for the house (prepping for ‘the big one’!) so these expenses weren’t coming out of our normal budget.

Previous budget posts can be found here: December 2018 (first post with background information), January 2019, and February 2019.

march 2019 budget

Housing
Budgeted: 43.75%
Spent: 43.29%
Leftover: 0.46%
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.

With the loan payoff this month, we lifted our house project moratorium in March and Mike jazzed up an old Ikea mirror (aka added some wood trim to the edges) that has been sitting at the end of the hallway for a long time.

Groceries
Budgeted: 20.48%
Spent: 18.88%
Leftover: 1.60%
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.  

Utilities
Budgeted: 7.74%
Spent: 6.52%
Leftover: 1.22%
student loans

What’s included? Electric, gas, water, and trash.

Travel related expenses
Budgeted: 7.81%
Spent: 35.72%
over budget: 27.91% (the vast majority of this will get reimbursed, we also proactively pulled ~1.5% from our travel fund to cover our airbnb for a trip this month, so technically the budget this month was a bit higher)
1.10%
savings for yearly bills

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.

We bought tickets, etc. for an upcoming trip (conference/family trip), which is where pretty much all of the over budget amount is coming from. And then we also took a quick trip this month, but the extra we pulled from our travel fund only amounted to about 1.5%.  

Phone/internet
Budgeted: 3.78%
Spent: 2.81%
leftover: 0.97%
Student loans

What’s included? Phone bills, phone insurance, internet

Internet went up this month. Need to figure out my phone… but am not too concerned with this right now.

Health
Budgeted: 1.86%
Spent: 0.44%
Leftover: 0.33%
workout fund; 1.09% 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 [dropped this until summer and then will reassess, putting the extra towards loans], and a savings fund for a summer bootcamp.

Miscellaneous
Budgeted: 1.67%
Spent: 8.42%
over budget: 6.75% (used part of our tax return to cover the extra here)
bills: 1.06%
savings for yearly bills

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.

In addition to paying off one of Mike’s loans, we used part of our tax return to get some emergency supplies for the house. We knew we’d be spending more in this category this month so we just took it from the extra in our tax return. Also, I want to look into our tax withholdings since we’ve gotten sizable refunds these past few years, might be time to adjust some things so that we get that money in my actual paycheck.

Dining out/entertainment
Budgeted: 1.20%
Spent: 1.10%
leftover: 0.10%
student loans

What’s included? Dining out/take out, museums, kid stuff (e.g., a class at the rec center for Ellie)

We got ice cream (twice!) on our trip this month. We also got takeout the last night of March.

Gifts
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.  

Clothing
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: 5.44%

What’s included: Mike’s student loan payments and my student loan payments. The % budgeted/spent used to reflects our bottom line payment (e.g., our minimum payment amounts, plus a little extra on Mike’s so interest doesn’t accrue).

Between our tax return, extra money from Feb (from some additional money I got through a mini-grant at work), and pulling a little from our emergency savings (which is currently at $2,000), we paid off another one of Mike’s loans. We’re targeting 2 more of his higher interest loans (6.55%) that total just about $12,000. After that, we’ll just have low interest loans (2.5%) and my federal public service loans (which are growing in interest each month at their 7% interest rate… ugh… theoretically this will all get forgiven in *hopefully* 4-ish years). Still a ways to go, but we’re slowly making progress. Also, these calculations don’t include the 5.44% extra from March because I haven’t actually transferred the money yet.

march 2019 loan progress

march 2019 loan progress