September was the very first month that my husband and I put together and used a full budget. We’ve been tracking our spending for over a year, but that’s pretty reactive, and I knew we needed to be more proactive, if we want to get a better handle on our spending and pay down our debts more quickly. We knew what our fixed monthly expenses were, but we hadn’t previously created any structure around the other expense categories – and this can get one in a LOT of trouble – trust me!
I’ve read quite a few blog posts about budgeting, as well as two helpful books by Jessi Fearson, The Budget Mama: Build a Budget that Works, and Real Life on a Budget. (You can read my review of the first one here.) So in late August, I sat down with what I’d learned, and put together our first budget. My husband and I met to review it, and off we went!
Categories Included & Results
These are the expense categories I included in our September budget, and how we made out with them:
- Mortgage (fixed amount)
- Home equity loan (fixed amount)
- Husband’s grad school loan (fixed amount)
- My grad school loan (fixed amount)
- Accord loan (fixed amount)
- Internet (fixed amount)
- Electricity – under budget!
- Trash/recycling – (fixed amount)
- Phone service – very slightly under budget!
- Food – way, way over budget
- Ballet – way over budget
- Gas – way over budget
- Cat care – under budget!
- Medical – under budget!
- Car care – very slightly under budget!
- Household – under budget!
- My daughter’s YMCA membership (fixed amount)
- Dining out – way over budget
- Savings (fixed amount)
- Slush – me – ever so slightly over budget
- Slush – husband – under budget (show-off)!
- Gifts – slightly over budget
- Birthday party (deposit for my daughter’s upcoming birthday party) (fixed amount)
Categories I Missed
Almost immediately, I realized that I had missed a few categories. For example, I had just started using a “new” laptop that we actually purchased over a year ago, but it didn’t have Microsoft Office on it. I signed up for a free 30-day trial, but quickly realized that I would need to purchase Office at the end of September. So I quickly added an office supplies category. Good thing, because I also needed an ink cartridge for the printer! Here are the other categories I missed:
- Entertainment. We’re not as good at enjoying 100% free entertainment as Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods are, and we ended up spending $62 on a day trip to Lake Placid. We spent it on a boat tour of the lake, and the entry fee at Whiteface Mountain. It was money well spent, in our view
- Activities. I had forgotten about the $20 fee for the canning class I took. Also, I learned about a yoga for kids class that my daughter took twice ($15 per class), and I pre-registered for a yoga class for myself. My class takes place over four weeks in October and November, but I had to pre-pay for it. All of this added up to $130, but we’ll be reimbursed by our health insurance for all of the yoga classes – once I submit the paperwork.
- Fines. The DVDs from the library are going to kill me! The late fee is a $1 per DVD, per day, and my daughter typically takes out two or three at a time. I don’t want to make this a regular category, but I can’t say I’ll never have to pay a fine again, either.
- Books. My daughter’s school sends home Scholastic book order forms every month. I don’t purchase books for her every month, but I did get her three for $10 this time.
- Clothing. It seems like, between the three of us, something is going to come up in this category almost every month – especially since my daughter is growing like a weed these days!
- Personal care. I’m not sure why I left this off. Sure, I have lots of shampoo, body wash, and toothpaste stockpiled, but this seems like another category that will come up almost every month.
- Misc. I decided to purchase labels with my daughter;s name on them for her outerwear. I plan to stick them in all of her coats and jackets, as well as her rain and snow boats, since these are all worn and changed out of at school. I didn’t know how else to categorize this one expense, but I think I should created a small “misc.” category for similarly random expenses each month.
Everything I’ve read about budgeting indicated that there’s a learning curve, and it may take several months before we get into a groove with it. I definitely saw that play out with our September budget, and I imagine there will be some kinks October’s budget, as well.
What are some of your September budget “misses”?
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