Just a little blog about me and mine.

Mid-Month Budgeting September 17, 2009

Filed under: family,finances — Katie @ 12:00 pm

This week is the middle of the first month with our new budget and spending goals, so I sat down and looked at our budget and monthly expenses more closely to see how we are doing so far. As of the 15th of the month, we’re on track to not run out of money by the time I get paid next week on the 25th, and that’s the point, so we’re doing ok.

The new budget consisted of:

1. Cash only for eating out ($120 a month total)
2. A customized monthly budget for each month, linked to an overall yearly and monthly average budget
3. A new Charles Schwab invest first credit card (for rewards of cash for the brokerage account)
4. Not using Mint (which was just bought by Intuit, perhaps making it appear more secure, but I hear terrible things about the unreliability of Intuit so I’m glad I’m done)

Here’s how we’re doing:

Cash only for eating out–I think we’re almost out of cash, maybe $12 left, from our $120 total restaurant cash plus our $20 each for incidentals. PL’s extra cash seems to have gone towards our restaurant budget too, while I did need $12 cash one day and had it. Technically our month for restaurant cash starts over when I get paid on the 25th since that’s when we took it out last month, and of course immediately started spending it. I might try to see if we can tough it out and wait until October 1st to start the cash again so it tracks more easily month by month. But with knowing we have a limited amount of cash, when we have gone out we were mindful of prices, but also mindful that we were choosing to spend that money and should enjoy it knowing we could afford it. This is much better than feeling guilty about eating out, or also mindlessly grabbing something on the way home since we didn’t feel like cooking.

A customized monthly budget–I knew going into this that the budget would need some work over time, but so far it’s working out ok. I really like this customized monthly budget, and in particular it’s helpful to predict the actual amount we’ll spend on an irregular expense in the month it will occur, rather than some random $10 or so every month. It’s certainly not a perfect system but we made sure to have some backup padding in our budget and savings, so we have a little flexibility to try this out as a way to better predict those expenses.

The budget has categories of fixed monthly expenses (mortgage, car insurance, cell phone, etc…that occur every month and are the same amount every month), variable monthly expenses with a same goal amount each month (groceries, gas, electricity, lawn/garden) and then the tricky category–irregular expenses (gifts, magazine subscriptions, gym membership, vet bills and those other things that don’t get paid every month and often aren’t even the same amount).

Here’s a snapshot at some of our progress:

Groceries: $160 spent out of a $400 budget. We’ve had really small grocery lists lately, partly since we usually buy large amounts of meat when it’s on sale and then freeze it and also by using some pantry staples like lentils and freezer staples like peas. That budget amount still seems pretty high for just 2 people–is it? It’s based on what we had historically spent on groceries, even though buy very little pre-packaged food, except for lots of cereal (even that is store brand, healthy grown up cereal, and on sale).

Gas: $125.8 out of a $130 budget. So maybe this budget category needs to be adjusted. We did drive 6 hours to and from Durham, NC during Labor Day in the SUV so that took a lot of gas-$69 at some stations not at home, plus the filling up before and after. Luckily, we will still be able to afford to buy more gas this month, but we can reduce our gas expenses a lot I think by driving the Ford Escort more than we drive the Mariner when we make trips around town.

Now for those pesky irregular expenses:

My birthday is next month, and I got my early birthday present from the County in the form of a $178 car registration bill and had to get a mandatory emissions test. I did learn that while $25 is the recommended price for emissions tests, companies are free to charge whatever, so we got it for $17. The point is that I knew this expense would be coming this month, and knew it was going to be roughly $200 so I was prepared and counted that money in the budget.

We also had a birthday party and then a wedding shower to go to, which I hadn’t planned for in the budget for this month. It was accounted for in a more traditional average yearly and monthly expense way though after I estimated birthdays, weddings and holidays.

New credit card–So far I’ve been happy with the new Charles Schwab credit card. We haven’t gotten any cash rewards yet, but I got the ebill and online bill pay set up. It doesn’t really affect our daily spending, it’s just the way we’re paying for some of it now instead of on a card with no rewards back to us.


One Response to “Mid-Month Budgeting”

  1. Rachel Says:

    How do you feel about using CCD’s for monthly expenses just to get the rewards. Is it worth it? Are there any downfalls? We’ve looked into the air miles cards and it would take forever to earn enough for us to actually use it. I looked at the CS card also and it looks like it’s a great card! Would love to hear your thoughts on this strategy.

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