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It’s time for another budget report, Picky people! See how our expenses looked during November and where we plan to go in December. You can read October’s budget report here.

Howdy there, Picky peeps! It’s time for another monthly budget report. I confess that November was probably one of our worst months to date. We had a lot of “fun” expenses, as well as a few surprise costs.

Mr. Picky Pincher and I met to discuss the State of Money for December and feel that we’re now on a good track. But that’s not to say that November didn’t kick our butts!

Here’s how the month went down.

P.S. If you haven’t already, please join our Picky Pinchers Facebook group! I designed it to be a safe haven for frugal-minded folk to ask questions and share both life and money wins. I’d love to see you there! 🙂

Mortgage: $1,099.83

Yup, we’re slow ‘n’ steady paying down our mortgage. We’ll target the mortgage for repayment after we eliminate our student loans.

hanging basket

After last month’s stock photo, I realized I need to post more ACTUAL photos of our house. Enjoy this not-fancy view from our back porch.

Internet: $106.64

I love to talk here about my war on Time Warner / Spectrum. I was going to buy a new router, but I’m considering pausing that endeavor. Google Fiber is now in our city! They’re only on one side of town but it’s expected to spread. I’m holding my breath that we’ll soon have an alternative to our crappy service.

I would gladly give Google money for many things. Suck it, Spectrum!

Phones: $54.54

I’m lovin’ our low phone bills! We’ve been with Google Fi going on two years now. Overall it’s been an amazing experience and I’m glad we made the switch. I wrote this review after using Fi for one year if you’re curious about the experience.

If you’d like to join Google Fi, you can do so through my affiliate link right here. After 30 days, Google Fi will credit your account with $20, which is like getting one month free.

Nifty eh?

Car payment: $345.36

Yup, we still have a car payment! Learn more about our car saga here.

Insurance: $190.33

This includes homeowner’s insurance, life insurance, and car insurance.

Omg y’all, I am such a ditz.

Last month USAA told us to expect a call from one of their reps to evaluate our driving habits for car insurance. I was excited, because I was hoping with the less amount of driving we were doing, that we would get a nice cut in our rates.

Unfortunately, the rep decided to call right when I was leaving the doctor’s office after learning about a mass in my thyroid. I was driving and opted to answer the unknown number (via our hands-free system, natch), thinking it was the doctor. I figured I’d forgotten something at the office.

But nope! It was USAA, wanting to chat about insurance right after I had a really shizzy day. I was tired and it was hard to think.

“Okay, Mrs. Picky Pincher, how many miles would you say you drive on the truck every year?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe 50,000.”

“50,000?”

“Yeah, that seems about right.”

“Uh, okay, and how about your car?”

“Oh, just an average amount of driving. We put probably 100,000 on it every year.”

At this point, the rep started guffawing. It wasn’t a laugh, it was a huge “bahahaha” kind of thing. He then informed me that I had my decimals in the wrong place. I damn near smacked my face on the steering wheel out of embarrassment. I wasn’t having a great day and him laughing at me didn’t help.

I’m not good at math, okay?

I corrected him and said the right amounts were 5,000 and 10,000.

I would NOT have wanted to pay the insurance bill for 150,000 miles of driving! 😉



Utilities (trash, water, energy): $155.14

Our energy costs were pleasantly low this month at just under $50. I’m curious to add up our annual energy costs after December is done with. As much as I make fun of the heat in Texas, I do wonder if it’s cheaper than living in the north and paying for heating costs.

Hm.

We didn’t have a trash bill this quarter, so that was nice.

Our water bill was $105.50. Unfortunately our rates are increasing every year for the next four years, so I’m not sure how to try keeping this bill low. In fact, most of the charges here are for fees and taxes, not usage. We probably use $5 – $10 worth of water every month!

The one big improvement was that we replaced the toilets in our house. They were constantly running and used up a crazy amount of water. Although our usage was low to begin with, I’m hoping this will improve our bill ever-so-slightly.

Goodbye, old nasty toilets!


Groceries: $585.94

Oops. We were over on groceries by $185.94 this month. This does have a bit to do with our food choices, although a portion is definitely attributable to Thanksgiving, with two turkeys and a ham. I forgot that hams are, like, $30. Yeesh.

smoking turkey

I’m also on a mission to start eating healthier. I think we went too far off the deep end and tried to move too fast, leading to nasty meals that just didn’t work. We’re now taking it more slowly and trying out new recipes here and there that work for us.

We’ll get there, slow ‘n’ steady. 🙂

Also, if you didn’t hear the good news, The Picky Pincher Cookbook launched last Friday! Snag your copy for just $4.95 before early bird pricing ends on December 15. Thanks y’all!

the picky pinchers cookbook

Take out: $226.93

All things considered, we did okay on takeout for the month. We’re over by $26.93. I know for a fact that we’ve been eating out more this month, thanks to cooking dinners that just didn’t work.

I’m shocked that we’re only over by $26.93 here. I was expecting the worst!

We’re combating this by bulking up the amount of Picky-approved freezer meals we have on hand. I even snagged a few frozen pizzas to dissuade our junk food-loving selves from picking up Taco Bell. 😛

Medical: $294.49

We budget $100 a month for medical because we’re usually in good health. This budget is mainly to cover copays for checkups and dentist appointments.

With the health scare I had this month, we paid quite a bit more for copays, scans, tests, etc. I have a followup appointment in February with a doc who actually knows how to treat this stuff, so we’ll see how good ol’ Thelma is (hopefully not any bigger). I’m still evaluating whether I want a removal of my buddy Thelma, but I wanted a followup first to get the doc’s opinion.

In other news, I’ve considered drawing a face on Thelma with magic marker to make her less annoying.

Gas: $74.61

Gas was higher this month because we did more traveling. I had to drive 10 hours for work last week. While that TOTALLY sucked and drove up our gas prices, it does mean I’ll get over $300 to pay for mileage.

And my pain and suffering. 10 hours is a long time, y’all.

Student Loans: $1,500

Yeesh. We were only able to put $1,500 on the student loans this month. We usually like to slam down $3,000 or more. But because of higher costs (see the next section), this is what we were able to save.

I’m very thankful that we were still able to put such a huge amount on the loans. This is still leaps and bounds better than the good ol’ days when we couldn’t even afford our minimum payments.

Other: $2,691.33

Oh hey there, Other category! My my, you sure have grown. Ugh. This month I admit we had a lot of “fun” purchases. I think it’s a result of trying to be diligent and making sacrifices for so long. Eventually you feel the pull to buy nice things.

Is that frugal? I’m not sure. We do drop money on things that we don’t need, for sure. But we’re trying to buy high quality items that will last us a while, as well as doing preventive maintenance. I’d really like to curb our spending moving forward, especially because it seems like every month we have a huge budget category with more “wants” than anything else.

Here are some notable November expenses:

  • Mr. Picky Pincher birthday gifts: Mr. Picky Pincher turned 31 in November! For his birthday, he got himself a nice knife. I didn’t really register that, so I also got him a nice weighted blanket. Here’s the Amazon link to the one we got. One day I’d like to get a weighted blanket for myself. These things are crazy comfortable, and I think ours helps Mr. Picky Pincher sleep more soundly.
  • Vet trips: Zap had his annual vet appointment, which he was not thrilled about. We were also not thrilled when we got the bill. I LOVE our vet, but it’s still pricey to take proper care of a pet. He had to go twice this month so he could get a booster shot, so there went an extra $75. Yeesh. But hey, he’s a member of the family and he needs to see the doc to live a healthy life. 🙂

“Me hates the doktur mahm.”

  • New phone: Mr. Picky Pincher’s Nexus phone just up and quit one day. As in, it was working fine one second, and the next, it turned into a brick of expensive metal. We tried troubleshooting everything ourselves. We called Google. We even called LG. Everyone told us we were boned and that there was nothing that could be done. We chatted about this for a while. Should we buy a used phone for $100 and add it to our Google Fi plan? We decided against that because we didn’t want a phone with any baggage. We decided to buy a very nice but very expensive Google Pixel 2 (Amazon link here). He now has cell service and we’re all squared away. But it’s definitely making us rethink our love of smart phones. Remember Nokia phones that lasted decades?
  • New toilets: This was another hefty purchase. We hosted Thanksgiving this year and were so excited to have everyone. But there was one big problem: our toilets barely worked. Add 15 people to the mix, and we doubted our toilets would work at all. We got a quote from a plumber who (laughably) wanted to charge $1,400 for toilets and installation. Mr. Picky Pincher said, “Um, no,” to that offer and he and his dad installed the toilets. In the course of a weekend we had brand new toilets! I never realized how stressful it was to have our previous toilets. I could pee in peace! We got out of the woods here for under $400.
  • REI: Mr. Picky Pincher received coupons for REI’s garage sale. We hit the sale to see what we could find. He’s been running regularly and needed more than one pair of stinky running shorts. He found a pair of shorts and two nice running shirts on sale. I also found two pairs of Brooks yoga pants that were calling my name. We still spent a good chunk of money, but we emerged with good pieces of clothing designed to last years.
  • Pokemon game: I’d been planning for this expense ever since I heard there would be a Pokemon game releasing this month. It was worth the $40 since this is my main form of entertainment.
  • Beer chillers: Mr. Picky Pincher absolutely loves brewing beer. To speed up the process, he bought chillers. It normally takes a few hours for the beer to cool down enough to work with, but with the chillers, this time should be cut in half.
  • Camera: Last but not least! I’ve been wanting to do more video production for Picky Pinchers, but it was tough to do on my phone. I had to transfer the video over in annoying ways and the video quality wasn’t up to snuff. After checking out my videos from FinCon, I decided a quality camera was the way to go for good photo and video. And wow, you can really go overboard with different cameras, y’all. I was overwhelmed with options. After poking around for a few weeks, I settled on the Nikon D5300 (Amazon link here). I felt incredibly guilty about the $532 price tag, so I transferred $300 from my freelancing account to cover some of the costs. So, for our budget, it was more like a $232 camera. I’ve been learning a lot about photography and can’t wait to see all the cool stuff I can make now!

 

Total expenses: $5,825.14

Total expenses with student loans: $7,325.14

Keep in mind that the student loans are going towards debt and aren’t technically “spending.” I just think it’s helpful to include them in a separate figure.

Savings rate: 15.75%

Cost per meal: $3.33

 

December goals

Obviously November didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. We didn’t put a lot on student loans and had a lot of silly expenses. For December, I’d love to contribute the full $3,000 goal amount on the student loans to keep us on track. And you know what? I know we can do that. 🙂

December will also be a better month for food. We’re trying healthier recipes, but trying to be smarter about not jumping off the deep end. As an added plus, I get several weeks off work (paid!) for the holidays, so I’ll have more time to focus on cooking.

Here’s to a great end to the year!

We want to know: How was your December? Were you a Frugal Francine / Fergus or a Spendy Susie / Stan? 


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