It’s time for another budget report, Picky people! See how our expenses looked during January and where we plan to go in February. You can read December’s budget report here.
We partook in the Frugalwoods’ Uber Frugal Month Challenge, and I’m pleased to report that we had some pretty sweet wins! While we could always do better, we definitely improved our spending this month.
January is always a difficult month for us. Since I’m paid hourly, I missed out on a few days of pay from the holidays. This means January is a leaner time since I miss out on hundreds of dollars of pay. Blah!
Let’s see how we did this month!
Ayup, pretty standard stuff here. We’ll tackle the mortgage after we eliminate our student loans.
So I’m a total space cadet and have been counting the IRA as a debt instead of savings. This month we adjusted our report to count this as savings instead. I’ll take this off the budget reports going forward. D’oh!
Time Warner has magically changed their name to Spectrum. Along with the re-brand comes shiny new price hikes to pay for the expensive name change. I already despise the company, no matter their name, and I’m utterly annoyed that our bill is now $10/mo higher.
Unfortunately they’re the more reliable carrier in our area (Google Fiber, please come here!!!), so we’re stuck with them.
However! I read an article today mentioning we could save $10/mo by purchasing our own modem instead of paying a rental fee with Spectrum.
We’ll shell out the $30 or so for a modem, which will pay for itself in three months.
I’m so happy our phone bill is less this month!
I didn’t have a phone for three weeks after the great Dropping Phone In The Toilet incident of 2016, so that might account for this low number. We also didn’t travel and used the data saver modes on our phones.
It’s challenging because Mr. Picky Pincher no longer has wifi at work, which means he has to use data for everything on his phone. That means our bills are usually higher. But I’ll take this cheaper bill, that’s for sure. 🙂
We also saved money by consolidating our individual Google Fi accounts into one account to save $5/mo. This is something they implemented a few months ago, so be sure to combine your accounts if you and your partner have separate lines.
CAR PAYMENT: $345.36
Yup, we still have a car payment. The interest rate is stupid-low, so it makes more sense to eliminate our crushing student loan debt first.
Learn more about our car history here.
Just standard stuff here like auto and homeowner’s insurance. I snagged lower car insurance rates by completing defensive driving in 2015.
UTILITIES (TRASH, WATER, ENERGY): $74.93
Oh baybeh! This is super-low for us, y’all! Last month we shelled out nearly $150 for utilities. Most of this comes from our absolutely stupid water bill. We compared with neighbors and everyone here seems to have a gigantic water bill. The city water system has a monopoly on the water, so it’s not like we can go to a different company. Urf.
On the upside, our energy bill was $0. Our energy company offers rebates if you purchase a Nest thermostat, and said rebate FINALLY credited to our account. Y’know, a year after purchasing the damn thermostat. Gotta love city-run programs, huh?
They offer a rebate for a portion of the Nest’s upfront cost and offer a rebate after each summer for using Nest. Texas summers are infamous energy-suckers, so we’ll take any savings we can get.
This is a win, y’all! We’re under budget on groceries by $22.70. Considering we’re typically over here, by say, $100 or more, I’m thrilled. We focused on pantry ingredients and staples to keep our costs low.
Pssst, if you want to save big moolah on your own groceries, check out my eBook, Slash Your Grocery Bill In 28 Days. It’s available for pre-sale on Amazon now and goes live on February 8.
TAKE OUT: $149.62
We did even better on takeout this month. We were under budget here by $50.38.
These savings are mostly due to planning better freezer meals for lazy days and planning better dinners in the first place.
It’s also worth noting that we stopped beating ourselves up and setting strict “No eating out whatsoever, buster,” sort of rules. Halfway through January we realized we could grab a $25 quick dinner once a week to cut our $200 eating out expense in half. This way we don’t feel like we’re limiting ourselves and factor it in as a treat.
It’s been working out fantastically so far, and we’ll carry this strategy into February.
We were under budget for medical by $75. Nothing particularly exciting in this field this month, thank goodness.
We didn’t travel this month, so it’s curious that gas isn’t lower. This is partly due to higher gas prices this month.
STUDENT LOANS: $3,600
We were able to pay an extra $500 on our loans compared to December. Win! We’re on track to have my loans paid off in May, after which we’ll start eliminating Mr. Picky Pincher’s loans (those are bigger, unfortunately).
Welp. This is the category we can always improve. We were over budget here by $375.20. There were several culprits.
Here are a few notable January expenses:
- Zap the Kitten: Zap had a stomach virus/parasite, so that had to be treated with several medicines and special foods. It set us back $150. I know some people do the whole “let it exit his system” or “treat him at home” methods, but that’s not my style. I treat my animals like my children, and I wouldn’t let my child suffer for the sake of saving money. We took on this responsibility when we became cat-parents. I’m happy to report his tummy is back in working order. 🙂
- A brewing kit: Mr. Picky Pincher is a fermenting fanatic, so he scored a brewing kit from Amazon. He crunched the numbers and realized brewing his own beer was leaps and bounds cheaper than buying it. It also helps that he finds it fascinating. This set us back $100 or so. It wasn’t a need, but I do think it’s a solid investment in preventing future expenses. Hopefully the beer will be delicious and we won’t have to buy six-packs every week any more. 🙂
- Brewery trip: We took a much-needed mental health day trip to a local brewery. We enjoyed the farmer’s market, sunshine, and a crapton of beer. We spent probably $50 on this.
- We’ve been using Sling TV’s base $25 package for the last few months. We haven’t been thrilled with it, so we switched back to a baseline Netflix account for a cool $10/mo. January was the last month for us to have a higher entertainment cost. It’ll be $15/mo cheaper moving forward. Yissssss.
- New helix earring: Ugh. This one is kind of stupid. I spent $13 for a new earring for my cartilage piercing. I’ve had a hoop in it for the last five years, but it’s been irritating my ear and digging into my skin. It’s been super annoying and damaging to my cartilage, so I went with a stud. Fun fact: I dropped the stud down the sink drain and blessed Mr. Picky Pincher dug the damn thing out of the pea trap (aka the nastiest thing I’ve ever seen/smelled). After a good boil and washing, I successfully inserted said piercing and have been irritation-free. What a life.
- Cheese starters: I spent about $25 on cheese starters at the beer store. It wasn’t a need of course, but it’s a fun hobby that I enjoy and it saves us moolah in the long run. I made kefir first, and it was a little weird, but I enjoyed it. Next I plan to make chevre cheese.
- New pair of headphones: I’ve used the same headphones for the last four years. These things have survived countless drops and trips inside my laundry machine. But today they completely stopped working. I stopped by Wally World and picked up a new pair for $10. RIP, old headphones.
TOTAL EXPENSES: $3,275
TOTAL EXPENSES WITH STUDENT LOANS: $6,875.65
SAVINGS RATE: 55%
COST PER MEAL: $2.57
Well! I’m pretty satisfied with our January. We met most of our December goals and then some. For February I’d love to maintain our food savings–that’s been a huge boon to our budget. I want to continue the trend of making freezer meals and focusing on produce and cheap staples for meals.
The elephant in the room is our damn Other expenses. We’ve been able to decrease these expenses by $200 compared to last month, but I’d love to come in under budget. I think we can do it as long as we keep our eyes on the prize and focus on making our money work for us.
We want to know: How was your January? Were you a Frugal Fergus or a Spendy Susie?