Our October Spending Challenge…

As you may or may not be aware, we chose to pursue a spending challenge for the month of October. Expenses have a way of getting out of control and that seemed to be the path that we were on. And we needed to make a change. So, we decided to spend money only on food, personal hygiene, items that were required to maintain a safe and comfortable home, maintenance of our vehicles, and experiences. We also gave ourselves a pass for one meal out during the month. It wasn’t easy. My husband is accustomed to going out and getting whatever he needs, when he needs it. This challenge forced him to think of alternative ways to achieve his objectives. And I am used to looking around online for any deals on items that we may need now or in the future. Not in October!

So, how did we do? If I were to grade us, I’d say that we got a “B -.” We did not stay the course when it came to a few things. We bought our son a bike. We did not cancel our grass service (Scotts treats our lawn – this is a huge source of pride for my husband so taking this away was not in the cards). We bought our son daffodil supplies for a project at school. These things and a few other items (an annoying trip to the emergency room, for example) derailed our budget. But, we did ok in other areas.

This is our budget, not including our mortgage or daycare costs (since those are constant, there isn’t much we can do about them).

  • Cell Phones/Sling TV/Internet: $66.14
  • Gas: $350 (our gas budget is quite high because my husband has a very long commute)
  • Groceries: $600 (I need to work on getting this down without sacrificing quality)
  • Tolls: $100 (this is a monthly average based upon several years of data)
  • Home: $500 (this includes everything from car to boat to health care to home maintenance)
  • Electricity: $100 (this is an estimated average of our electricity bill over the 12 months – lower in the summer, higher in the winter)
  • Entertainment/Eating Out: $150
  • Allowance for coffee or other wants: $120

Total: $1986.14

And here is how we did:

  • Cell/Sling TV/Internet: $66.14 ($0)
  • Gas: $417.73 (+$67.73)
  • Groceries: $658.58 (+58.58)
  • Tolls: $127.99 (+27.99)
  • Home: $1528.16!!!!! (+1028.16)
  • Entertainment/Eating Out: $149.01 (-$0.99)
  • Allowance for coffee or other wants: $120 ($0)

Total: $3067.61

Yep, the only categories we met spending on was our Cell/Sling TV/Internet, Entertainment/Eating Out, and Allowance categories! In terms of gas, we did do one big fill of the boat (which was almost empty) because you have to store it for the winter full of gas. That was $62, so when you take that out, our gas was almost on track. Groceries came in high. I’d love to do a better job with our menu so that I can buy and cook in bulk and freeze the leftovers. I do have one particularly picky eater so working with that has been a challenge.

With the tolls, this happened to be one of the higher months. Next month it will probably be about $80 so that averages back up to our budgeted amount. And our Entertainment/Eating Out Budget (“experiences,” if you will) was right on track. Our experiences this month included the biggest agricultural fair in the state ($79 – super expensive, but fun!), our town Marketfest ($18), dinner out ($52) and Belize which is not in the budget. We spent $1562.57 in Belize. I have not included those expenses in the totals as we have a separate budget for trips. But our home expenses were astronomical!

While I mentioned a few outliers earlier, the fact is, every month has some sort of outlier. Something goes wrong with the car, we need propane, the chimney needs to be inspected, etc. But exceeding the budget in the home category by more than $1000 is crazy! Even taking out those outliers, we’re still over.

So, how do we get that back on track? To be honest, I’m not sure. We had to replace 4 expired smoke detectors which came to about $200 alone. But if it’s not a smoke detector, it’s something else. We have a $125 deductible on emergency room visits and it seems that we have had more than our share of visits this year. And we had a dental procedure which was not fully covered by insurance that came due this month.

I guess what I’m saying is that nothing in this category was frivolous. We even had three birthday parties to attend in October but had three pre-bought gifts on hand so we didn’t need to make a purchase for those. We have dwindled our birthday gift supply so I likely will need to stock up again if I see any new sales. But I believe the only thing that we spent money on this month that could have been avoided was the new bike we bought for our son. For us, however, the hours of enjoyment that he gets from bike riding was worth the expense.

Bottom line, life is expensive. Some months more than others. Given that we didn’t fully succeed this month, I’m hopeful that we can do better next month. There will be more things that will need to be fixed or bought. But if we can try to restrain ourselves to these “musts,” I hope that we’ll get back on track. So, I’m not going to call November a “no-spending month,” I will call it a “musts” only month.

First thing on my list for the month? A new sheet for our bed. I ripped a large hole in ours about a week before October was over and didn’t want to replace it because it didn’t make the spending exception list. I may have crossed the line between frugal and cheap with that one and need to make my way back…

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