It is that time of the month again, when I post the results of how our actual finances for the month stack up against our budget. I discuss the biggest budget misses along with any other items I think are relevant to highlight for the month.
Highlights this month: We hit the big milestone this past month of attaining our $30K emergency fund. This month we will shift our focus to increasing our 401k contributions and building up a $10K spend fund. We also got some 86 percent-off tickets to South America!
Real Job $7,820: No change…borrrrring.
Amanda Violin $1,543 ($457 worse): She invoiced her students this month, but 2 have yet to pay. Maybe we should start actually enforcing that $10 late fee. It should roll in next month, so there is no real issue here.
CPA stuff $1,100 ($400 worse): The miss here was driven mostly by the fact that I dropped $300 on my admission to FinCon, a financial bloggers conference in September that has been held over the past few years. This will be my first year attending. I was debating whether or not I should go, but I ordered my ticked on March 31st around 11:30pm, right before the early bird pricing expired.
Giving $1,150 ($32 worse): We choose this, but it hurts just a little every month. This is another item to add to my list of things for which the benefits outweigh the costs.
Groceries $700 ($50 worse): It appears we went slightly over on groceries, but the reality is that we did very well. I just didn’t take the time to break out the nongrocery items. I have to give my wife the credit on this one. She gets up early in the morning once a week while everyone is sleeping to go shopping and does a good job at getting about $150 worth of healthy food.
Last week, however, we went as a family. The greeter at the grocery store was handing out “Spend $50 Save $10” coupons. As we were checking out, Amanda told me I ought to go get another coupon and split our groceries in order to save an extra $10. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it. She may not have had that thought 5 years ago, as she talked about in her post a few weeks ago.
Air Travel/Hotel $349 ($199 worse): I had a few days alone with the kids this month when Amanda flew out to her brother’s wedding. We had purchased the plane ticket several months prior, and I budgeted $150 for lodging & airport parking. What took us over budget was, wait for it…2 round trip tickets to Nicaragua for $217! I had planned to pay nothing for them, but paying $217 instead of $1,500 makes me just about as happy. I’ll have to elaborate in another post, but we are super excited.
Auto $282 ($18 better): We registered our vehicles this month, which I had budgeted for. And I apparently also partially budgeted for my stupidity. One day my back window wouldn’t roll up. I probably spent an hour trying to figure it out before taking it in to the shop. It turns out that the window lock was on! So much for that $45 bucks.
Fuel $224 ($74 worse): I think I just budgeted based on gas prices from last month when we dipped down below $2 per gallon. We also had some road trips down the road to Chicago which I may not have done a good job factoring in.
Car Insurance $180 ($145 worse): Car insurance only appears worse that the amount budgeted simply because I paid the remaining balance on my policy. I paid it off to get some extra spend on the latest credit card signup bonus I am working on. I now don’t have any payments until June.
Shopping $117 ($17 worse): I failed to budget for my annual $59 Carbonite subscription, which backs up my hard drive and has saved me on more than one occasion. My wife failed to budget for the need of an apparently “chevron- patterned navy blue” front door mat. [Note: It was either that or a 10 x 7, really soft, welcoming area rug for our school room. I am trying to be happy with my door mat. Who needs an area rug, right?]
Education $102 ($64 worse): This is mainly from an impromptu home school trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Expensive parking and tickets (and gas, see above), plus a long line. But worth it to finally get out of the house after the winter. And see real dolphins!
Doctor $0 ($200 better): I had a CT scan done last month and am still waiting for the bill, which still hasn’t come. Getting the timing wrong in the budget can make your results look undeservedly really good or bad. This is one reason why it’s important to have an annual plan and an annual budget that you continually adjust. When you look at the year (or a quarter) as a whole, you can’t really “cheat” like you can from month to month.
I will also be posting my quarterly budget results. Sometimes we have good months, and sometimes we have bad months. We won’t know how we’re really doing unless we look at the cumulative effect.
Versus my Plan for the first quarter, I saved about $1,800 more (including 401k contributions) than I planned, which is great! This is mostly driven by earning $1,200 more than planned.
Beating your budget or your plan by a little bit is great, because it means you were able to earn more or spend less in an area that you didn’t think possible at the time of budgeting (otherwise you would have budgeted for it). If you beat or miss your budget by a significant amount, you probably need to put more time into budgeting.
Do you look at your budget from a quarterly/annual lens?