Wow. So, as it turns out, tracking your spending isn’t as easy as I make it sound on the BiggerPockets Money podcast. (Who knew?)
I knew it would be challenging to do this—and I wanted to show you that it isn’t easy and that it’s OK to make mistakes. Well, I’m leading by example for sure because I made a lot of mistakes last month! (Follow along at biggerpockets.com/mindysbudget.)
Over the last month, I over-budgeted in many categories and under-budgeted in others. As such, I’m making a few changes for February based on my January spending, but keeping most of what I had for January in place for February, too. This will allow me to weigh whether January was an anomaly or whether I need to make a change. (I really hate to see so much red!)
I’m also figuring out what works best for both my husband and me with regard to accounting for future spending. For example: Property taxes are a sure thing—and my January allocation was based on the previous year’s tax bill. I haven’t actually paid that money yet—but it will ultimately be paid in April and May. It’s a known (or rather a known-ish) expense, so I can budget for it.
On the other hand, travel is a far more fluid expense. We have a travel expense in March that we’ve already entered into the budget because that’s when we’re traveling—but we purchased the tickets in January. So the question is, do you account for that in January or in March?
Guess we’ll see how that works out. For now, here’s my January budget and spending recap for you to follow along with.
Mindy’s January budgeting rundown: The errors and extra expenses
Let’s go look at all of my errors for the month of January.
First off, when did gasoline get so expensive?!? I don’t do a ton of driving, and I consider one of my early-on, Ramit-style wins to be the fact that I simply do not pay attention to the cost of gasoline (and never have) because:
- I cannot stock up on it.
- I cannot shop around for it—it’s always within a few cents wherever you’re at.
- I cannot wait for it—when I need it, I need it right away.
Still, gas prices have gone up significantly, and I will need to consider this for the February budget.
Turns out Amazon purchases also sneak up on you! Carl and I were talking at the end of the day early in the month, and he asked me if I had entered the Amazon purchases into the spending tracker. Nope! It did not even OCCUR to me to enter them into the tracker. Yikes!!!
So, if you are having trouble figuring out why your spending doesn’t match your credit card bills, check out your Amazon account. That could easily be the culprit.
Also, how do you handle business expenses?
I completely overlooked the fact that January is when my MLS dues hit—to the tune of $605. I didn’t put these expenses in my personal budget because they’re business expenses that I pay out of the business income. Ditto to client lunches. Is that OK? I hope it’s OK.
The January budget busters
Now let’s take a look at those big-time budget busters: car repairs, clothing, restaurants, and household items.
Car repairs: My car is a 2003 model, and sometimes things go wrong. You don’t throw the whole car out just because something finally broke.
Last month, the windshield wipers stopped working—which are a car part that you totally take for granted most of the time. And that’s especially true when you live in a desert, as I do. But it also snows in my desert, and as such, wipers are necessary.
We thought it was a fuse, so we replaced it and it blew again and again. We finally took it into the shop to resolve the issue—and that was expensive. Prior to this, we’d actually spent almost nothing on automotive repairs for this car, which was bought new in 2003. So, overall this has been a great purchase.
And, in the middle of the month, an ice storm hit. As we were driving down the road, we hit a patch of ice and slid into a snowbank. When this happened, we broke the ball joint/knuckle/something in the wheel well as it slammed into the ice-covered snow.
In turn, the car that we had not done any repairs or maintenance to in years suddenly needed $1,066.95 in repairs. And it happened the very first month that I started publicly tracking my spending. Sigh.
Clothes and shoes: My running shoes were terrible and I needed a new pair. last month. I saved money by buying a different brand than I normally buy—and they were on clearance because they are the ugliest shoes ever (the color is seriously called Ocean Decay). But, this was not an expense I had factored in when creating my budget—so it helped break the budget.
Household: This category is laundry detergent, soap, cleaners—and things like that which are meant for the house. We ran out of every household item in January and I had to buy more. Luckily, I anticipate being under budget in this category in the coming months because I buy in bulk and it lasts for a very long time.
Restaurants: There is clearly room for improvement here. But I’ve also increased my budget for next month because we actually didn’t go out all that much, and I like going out to restaurants.
That said, not everything was a disaster for my budget in January—and, overall, the budget was actually pretty good. Plus, the car repairs could have come out of an emergency fund, if there was one. Let’s take a look at what went right.
The January budget wins
Here’s what went right in January:
Groceries: I consider the entire month a massive success simply because my grocery budget was so close to my grocery actual. This happened by being super conscious of my grocery spending the entire month, and there have been months where groceries have topped $1200 easily.
The budget cautions
We have a couple of recurring shipments from Amazon that were set up months ago. These ongoing shipments bill when they ship—and you have to remember to put these things in your spending tracker, too.
Utilities: We have recently installed solar panels, so our electric bills should be negative once the snow melts. We also bought this house more than two years ago, and when we went through our records to try and find a recent gas bill, we couldn’t find anything. It turns out the seller has been paying the gas bill the entire time we’ve owned the house. So there is no historical gas utility data for us to go off of.
Household: This is a kind of catch-all category for us, and will probably ebb and flow with life in general. This month was a big flow…
Are you ready to invest?
One of the most frequently asked questions in the BiggerPockets forums is “How can I start investing in real estate with no money and bad credit?” The answer? You shouldn’t. You need to fix your situation and invest from a position of financial strength.
The month end wrap up for Mindy’s budget
All in all, the month was pretty successful in terms of budgeting. We didn’t go completely off the rails but I was also hyper-conscious about my spending. We also tried dry January and aimed to stay out of restaurants.
Going forward, I think the key to sticking to my budget will be remaining conscious of the spending. It’s so easy to let money slip through your fingers when you’re not paying attention.
Remember, you can follow along—or just check in from time to time—at biggerpockets.com/mindysbudget.
And now that I’ve recapped how my budget experiment went, how was your spending in January?