April 2012 Spending Plan

Today, Vicky and I are sharing our budgets for April together! We are sharing our budgets for April with you today and at the end of the month or the beginning of May, we will update you on what we spent throughout the month. I’m warning you now – my budget is super detailed and long, so there is no way I’m doing this every month! Since the numbers are either regular, based off of rolling averages, or set once per year, I don’t actually go through this level of detail each month – I normally just do a quick once over at the end of the month to make sure all of the numbers look good.

I have two groupings of items: regular and variable/infrequent/wants. Some categories carry a balance from month to month (e.g. the yearly ones including clothing) and some, the extra reduces the amount for the next month (e.g. I expense part of my cell phone bill every quarter, so once every 3 months, my cell phone budget gets lowered). Some don’t roll over, like my food and entertainment categories.

Regular line items

For the regular ones, I break them up by frequency: monthly, bimonthly, yearly or semiyearly, and > yearly or unknown frequency. I pretty much try to catch everything that recurs on some frequency. For some people, this level of detail would stress them out more, but for me, it actually helps me since there are fewer curveballs when I have a crazy detailed spending plan. Renewing my passport or my driver’s license no longer seems expensive since it has been accounted for each month.

Monthly

My cell phone bill runs me about $83-85 per month. I expense some of my data plan to work once a quarter and I did that in March, which is why my budget for this is so low for April.

Basic cable (the major networks) and internet runs me about $60 per month right now. I finally went out and bought a modem, so once I return it, my bill should drop to around $53 per month.

I am renting a 1 bedroom + den apartment that is in the 700 sqft range with laundry machines in the apartment, a balcony, a fireplace, and a gorgeous kitchen. That runs me about $1,550 per month plus $130 per month for the garage parking spot. I got my first utilities bill for the new apartment (water, sewer, trash, and hot water). I’m going to base future months’ budgets off of those numbers until I have more data.

My insurance company lets you auto-pay each month with no financing costs! Right now, my renter’s insurance works out to about $8 per month, auto insurance $125 per month, and umbrella is just under $30 per month, but however the policy worked out, I don’t have to make a payment in April.

Bimonthly

Electricity is billed bimonthly in my city. This generally runs me about $10-15 per month, but I budget at $17 to cover the more expensive months which can go up to $40.

Yearly or semiyearly

Sport #1 charges its fees once per year, which works out to $550 for me. I amortize that over 12 months and then write a check when fees come due.

I love Pandora enough to pay for the yearly subscription over buying much of my own music. That’s $36/year or $3 per month.

Having the Remember the Milk app on my phone requires me to have a Pro membership, which costs $25 per year or $2.10 per month.

Since I don’t know exactly what I will do for preparing my income taxes next year, I’m setting aside $20/month for that. If I don’t use the funds, they will go to savings.

Last year, I forgot about renewing my vehicle tabs! So now it’s a yearly line item. I took last year’s cost and divided that by 12, so about $10/month.

I pay for the name registration for both my personal domain and my sister’s. One or both of them doesn’t expire until 2014, so this is only costing me about $1.50 per month right now. I pay for my sister’s domain hosting, which I started out at 6 months of service for $60. When that comes up in the summer for renewal, I might renew for a year to get a better rate.

> Yearly or unknown

I don’t remember exactly where the $4/month for TiVo came from. I’m guessing it’s for a year of service when my 3 year prepaid term is over. Once the 3 year prepaid term is over, I’ll re-evaluate my DVR needs and if I swap for something else, whatever is in this category will go towards that.

My current estimate for car maintenance is two $50 oil changes per year from the dealership since it’s still under warranty and I don’t put a ton of miles on it. That was filled up at $100 last year, so I won’t have any costs for that until late this year or early next year.

I spend the $99/year to have all of my data automatically backed up with Dropbox. It may be expensive, but it is so worth it to know I will never lose any photos or spreadsheets and not have to do anything for it. They definitely built an amazing product even for luddites because it just _works_. That works out to $8.25/month.

Driver license and passport replacement runs me about $4/month amortized. That includes the cost of passport photos and getting the passport renewal application sent off to wherever it needs to go. The driver license cost was amortized based on the cost in a more expensive state, so I’ll send the leftovers to savings the next time I renew my driver’s license.

Total fixed

All of my fixed budgeted costs for April add up to about $2,030.

Variable line items

My clothing plan for the year is exactly as I outlined late last year and updated last month. I’m okay with negative balances in some of these categories since I know it will even out by the end of the year.

I budget about $250 for Entertainment each month. I’ve varied this between $200-300 (as I’ve decreased what this covers, I’ve reduced the allocated amount). This covers anything from eating out with friends, going to see or renting movies, buying books, going out drinking, cash spending, random small furniture acquisitions, etc. This is basically my catch-all category. Money leftover in this allocation doesn’t roll over to the next month.

I don’t count eating out with friends as “Food” – I count that in Entertainment since it is social spending. So “Dining Out” is when I’m too lazy/don’t have time to cook dinner. My groceries and lunch allocations are based on the average of the rolling average and highest month. There is usually around $150-200 or so left over in this category, which doesn’t roll over to the next month.

I shopped around for eyebrow waxing when I first moved to this city and eventually settled on the lady I see now. She is the most reasonable that I was able to find and I struck up somewhat of a rapport with her.

I’m really bad at budgeting for hair cuts. I don’t get my hair cut very often (2-4 times per year usually), but this budget amount is definitely pretty random.

“Other bathroom stuff” covers items like body wash, shaving cream, feminine products, shampoo, conditioner, etc. (basically any toiletries other than make-up). Make-up got its own line item since it was adding up to quite a bit in the last couple of years.

Sport #2 is a recurring monthly cost. I explained the tournaments allocation earlier.

Cellular electronics is me saving up for a new cell phone for when my contract is up. I don’t know if I’ll use that full amount or not, but I sure haven’t been noticing the $9 floating forward each month!

New computer is about $1,500 amortized over 4 years since that’s about how long my previous laptop lasted and about how much my last two laptops cost. A netbook just won’t cut it for me, unfortunately. New iPod is estimated to be needed in 4 years at the same cost as the one I bought last month.

I allocate $20 per month for parking meters, which I have only spent any money on maybe 2-3 months in the 18+ that I’ve had my car? I don’t normally spend more than $5 either, so maybe I should reduce this amount. Whatever is left over doesn’t roll over. I pay to park at work on the occasional days that I drive, but then I apply to have the expenses reimbursed. I don’t generally drive more often than the amount of parking my employer will cover. My fuel costs are incredibly variable. I don’t normally fill up more than twice per month though (sometimes not at all!), so if the amount rolled forward in this category is more than $96 (= 12 gallon tank x $4/gallon x 2 fill-ups per month), I reduce or eliminate the allocation for the following month.

My travel costs are way out of balance at the moment. That will take me a few months to recover from, but I did somewhat front-load my vacations at the beginning of the year.

I allocate about $50/month for charitable donations. I have a recurring $25/month donation and then make other random donations throughout the year. Last year, there was $100 left in the allocation at the end of the year, so I made an extra donation to a charity that I like. I’m planning to increase this budget with my raise.

I also set aside money to cover Christmas/birthday presents throughout the year. I don’t have anyone to buy for in January, so this system works out just fine. The presents line item rolls forward indefinitely, but I empty it out after Christmas (if there is any money left – some years, I have gone over-budget).

Yes, I plan on spending $0.27 per month on checks. Eventually, that will accumulate to a point that will be helpful when I need to replace checks! (This is mostly so that I will curse less when I need to replace my checks, whenever that will be in the far away future.)

Credit card spending is tracked in the actual spending category (e.g. lunches), so I balance that out by listing all of the credit card balances.

If all went perfectly (hah!), my checking account balance would be equal to the “Balance Overall (EOM)” line at the end of the month.

You can see that at the end of March, my checking account balance was about $1,100 higher than I expected it to be, so that is extra money that went to savings. (This is how I clear the non-rolled over funds to savings at the end of the month.)

So savings room is calculated as follows: March net income ($4,700) – Total allocated for April ($3,600) = $1,100. $250 goes to the car replacement fund, $130 replenished the health insurance deductible reserves and the remaining $680 is sent to the savings snowball, which is currently 100% to the condo down payment savings fund. All of the extra funds in my checking account also go to the savings snowball.

Total variable

All of my variable budgeted costs for April add up to about $1,600, for a total of $3,600 overall. With a net income of $4,700 after 401(k) contributions, this leaves me with about $1,100 to save from my March paycheck, plus any leftovers, which isn’t bad.

Smart readers might notice that there are no line items in my spending plan for medical bills. My health and dental insurance premiums come off of my paycheck pre-tax each month. I put $550 into a FSA for this plan year and I keep any further funds that I could have to pay out of pocket (= Deductible + Out-of-pocket maximum – year’s FSA contributions) into my health insurance reserves section of my checking account and pay any extra bills out of that. At the end of the plan year, like I did this month, I then top the reserves account back up to the appropriate amount for the new plan year.

Overall picture

Phew! That was an incredibly long post and no, I don’t normally go into this level of detail each month. I enter the rent utilities numbers (water, sewer, trash) when I get the bill. I update the insurance allocations when my policy is updated. I update the other regular categories when I spend money in them. I evaluate my clothing plan once per year. The main incremental cost is entering the spending numbers, but very minimal cost to update the allocations, even though it looks quite scary and detailed.

I think my favorite part about my spending plan is that the balance on my checking account according to my spreadsheet is the amount of my spending plan for the month. Before I started using my dividend rewards checking account, the balance on my checking account in my online banking was the amount of my spending plan for the month, which was pretty cool. And then any money I don’t spend out of my entertainment or food categories gets sent off to savings as extra savings, which I quite enjoy seeing each month!

At the end of April, I will reproduce these screenshots again to show you how the month went.

Some people might be worried at how far in the negative the travel line item currently is, which makes the overall checking account balance quite low right now for the actual amount of my spending plan. I’m not worried about this because of the two months expenses ($7,200) of reserves that I keep in my checking account.

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13 thoughts on “April 2012 Spending Plan

    • I have the budget columns copy/pasted forward for about 6-12 months at any given time. Just before the end of the month, I create the total and spent columns for the next month. That takes about 5 minutes. All of the amounts are formulas, so maintenance is actually pretty minimal.

      I usually enter the sums of what I’ve spent once every week or two and then within the last week of the month, I figure out how much to send to the savings snowball.

    • Haha, that’s pretty much what I expected you to say :P

      Looking at it from these screenshots, it (as in the big picture) could probably quite easily make my head spin, but when I look at the details, it doesn’t. This surprises me considering the fact that I had zero spending plan up until about two and a half years ago.

  1. I love it! It’s exactly the type of budget I would expect you to have!

    I might have to bug you about how you incorporated both text and images into your post; looks great! :)

    • Haha, thanks! I’m going to talk about how it ended up this complicated-looking on Monday :P

      In a nutshell: I played around with the HTML and CSS. I can show you later – send me an email! :)

  2. “Some people might be worried at how far in the negative the travel line item currently is”

    Leigh, this line made me laugh. I don’t know how anyone could read through this post and then be worried about anything having to do with your budget.

    I am so impressed at all the work you put into your budget. There’s a reason you are in such great financial shape at such a young age!

  3. Thanks, NTF :) Your comment made me laugh too!

    I’m *slightly* worried at how low the desired checking account balance is with how far in the negative the travel line item is, but then I remember that I have two months’ expenses plus some as a buffer in my checking account, so being $1,000 in the negative isn’t really a problem. I also worry some months that I’m spending too much, but then I look at the fact that I’m putting $3,000 – $4,000 into savings and investments each month and tell myself that I’m crazy :P

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