Update: July 2014 Budget & Goals

July 31, 2014


REMEMBER: You can download this budget template!

Well, it was quite a month – not exactly the one I’d planned, but in some ways it was even better. I celebrated my 29th birthday, went to Whistler with friends, had friends from Victoria and Toronto come stay with me, started a new yearlong shopping ban, gave up takeout coffee, hosted my first meet-up and, in a massive declutter/purge, removed 377 items (42% of my belongings) from my apartment. Whew! Now, let’s look at how my numbers finished up, then talk about how my budget posts will be written going forward.

If you look at the “Leftover” column, I only went over in three categories this month, but the amounts were somewhat substantial.

First, groceries: what the heck!? Seriously, this is the question I asked myself every weekend this month, after I added up my spending. In the first two weeks of July, I spent $200 on groceries! At that point, I obviously knew I was going to go over budget and tried to reign it in more, but it was impossible to get it any lower than this. My fridge is empty and I waste nothing – and I lost 5.2 lbs. this month – so how could I have spent all that money on food!? I have three reasons: 1) I had friends over for dinner a handful of times, 2) I dined out less but bought a few more convenience foods and 3) the cost of groceries has skyrocketed. As of last weekend, I’ve stopped shopping at Thrifty Foods – but that topic requires a post of its own.

Parking isn’t really anything to sneeze at. I usually budget for $65, but had this wonderful idea that I’d drive to work a little less. Instead, I drove downtown a lot more – and you know parking ain’t cheap there.

Finally, I hadn’t budgeted for it, but I decided to renew my passport this month. It’s been expired since May and I need it for some upcoming trips to the U.S. this fall, so I decided not to wait until August and dealt with it last week. Since the new 10-year passports are only $40 more than the 5-year ($160 vs. $120), I decided to go for a 10-year. The renewal fee + a set of new pictures set me back $180.83, but it had to be done.

All the categories I came in under budget don’t really surprise me, however, it’s cool to see how the first 3.5 weeks of my shopping ban have affected my finances so far. I’m dining out less, not shopping at all (I bought new running shoes + a new sports bra right before the ban started) and am avoiding bookstores like the plague. My only entertainment cost this month was Netflix, which was $7.99 well spent.

In the end, I put 21% of my income in long-term savings, spent 38.5% on housing, 12% on food, 10% on transportation, 11% on travel (including my passport), 3% on health care, 3% on myself and I donated 1.5% to charity. And that scary red number at the bottom? Not to worry. I got back a bunch of reimbursements from work this week + earned a little bit of freelance income earlier in the month, so we’re all good there.

Budgets going forward

Now, it makes me a little sad to say this, but I think this is the last time you’re going to see my numbers on the site – at least, the actual dollar amounts. I’ve really struggled with this decision, as I’ve always been an open book here, but I know it’s what’s best for me. And, in a way, I think the new format for my budget posts is going to be pretty cool for you guys too. (So I hope you’ll come back next week to check it out!)

Why did I finally make this decision? Surprisingly, even after receiving random / harassing comments from a few people in the past, it actually has nothing to do with that. I don’t care if you guys know how much I spend on groceries, gas or whatever else (obviously) – but I do care about keeping some numbers private, for security’s sake. There’s a crazy thing out there called identify fraud/theft, and I want to protect myself from it.

So, it’s been fun sharing my numbers with you all for the last three years, and it has helped me grow and continually get better with my finances, but next week we are switching to percentages. I can’t wait to see what you think of August’s budget. Thanks for understanding! xo

Goals for this month:

  • Read 1 book – PASS! I actually read 2 books: Minimalism and The Accidental Creative.
  • Workout 4x/week – PASS! And I lost 5.2 lbs, which was a nice bonus!
  • Buy new running shoes + a new sports bra – PASS!
  • Then start a yearlong shopping ban – PASS!
  • Host a meet-up in Vancouver on July 24th – PASS! Now it’s time to plan one in Toronto!

How did your month finish up?

Guest posts published in July:

2014, Jul 27 – When Spending Money Stops Tasting Good – Gail Vaz-Oxlade
2014, Jul 24 – Two Ways You Can Budget Your Money – Tangerine
2014, Jul 20 – What Makes You Feel Rich? – Gail Vaz-Oxlade
2014, Jul 13 – Comfort Levels with Credit Cards – Gail Vaz-Oxlade
2014, Jul 06 – Recipe: Raspberry Lemon Oatmeal Muffins – Gail Vaz-Oxlade

  • L July 31, 2014 at 5:00 am

    Congrats on meeting all your goals this month and I’m looking forward to seeing the new budgets. In the end personal finance is personal and I don’t think any of your true readers will be upset with the change in your budget format :)

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Thanks, L! Appreciate it :)

  • Jason St-Hilaire July 31, 2014 at 5:31 am

    I’m always surprised by the amount of groceries we buy in a month! Our figures vary wildly depending on if we went to Costco that month. Lately, we’ve been going to the farmer’s market and I think we tend to overspend there. But the produce is so delicious!

    You’re making me reconsider blogging about my budget in real dollars. I already do my net worth posts in percentages, I might as well do it for the budget too.

    And congrats on all your goals :)

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Do you think Costco helps or hurts your grocery budget? I’m genuinely curious, as I continually toy with whether or not I should get a membership.

      • Jason St-Hilaire August 2, 2014 at 12:23 pm

        We go to Costco about once a month, sometimes less often. We mostly buy non-perishables and household products so we don’t lose much. It’s a bit less expensive than going to the grocery store. Fresh produce and meat are usually of good quality but it’s not cheaper than everywhere else.

        We pack our lunches to work so we buy juice boxes, granola bars and fruit cups there. Not the most frugal way to pack a lunch, I know :)

        We take a hit on the grocery budget every once in a while, but I figure we would have bought the same stuff overtime anyway and for probably more.

        For a single person, the membership fee may not be worth it. You could share with a friend, though.

  • Alicia July 31, 2014 at 5:34 am

    I need to pull my passport out and see when it expires. When it does, I will definitely be getting the 10-year option.

    Groceries are killing me lately. I cannot reign in the numbers, and I think I’m fighting a losing battle, because I am not buying tonnes more. I think the prices have just gone up enough that it adds $5-$10 on per trip. Ugh… I might need to revisit the numbers I put in my budget.

    If you think about it with your “old budget” you’re under that. You used to budget for $3,200… now it’s down to $2,900… but $3,100 is still improvement from your old budget :) Plus, a lot of those things (like the passport) are one time expenses.

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      Food is NOT cheap right now. I try to shop sales, but the sale prices aren’t as good as they used to be. And I’m barely eating any meat at home (might’ve bought 2 salmon fillets all month), which is why the total amount spent bugs me even more! Grr.

      And you’re right. I hadn’t thought about it like that.

  • Retired by 40 July 31, 2014 at 5:34 am

    Even though the passport made you negative in that category, I’d totally consider that a win – I mean, you’re traveling! And believe me, I totally get it about the groceries thing! We were way over budget this month as well, and our fridge is empty. what on earth are we buying? I’ll have to dig more into it in August!

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      Yea, I wish I’d kept a few more of my receipts to analyze this, but they’d probably still confuse me. I’ve been avoiding buying some of my favourite things (raspberries, grapes, etc.) because of how expensive they’ve been all summer. And still, my budget is all out of whack!

  • Michelle July 31, 2014 at 5:49 am

    Wow! 377 items purged, nice job. I spent most of the summer purging my closet and now I’m back to getting rid of all the other unnecessary stuff from my “when I had a house years”.
    It seems like many of us have been struggling with groceries lately, I spent $333 for July, yikes! A few things for me were having to buy a bulk pack of chicken and since I’ve been walking and exercising more my body wants more food. I’ve also gone to eating five times a day, albeit small amounts.
    I’m happy with July’s numbers as I was able to reign in my spending and unbelievably the only clothing purchase was a new pair of runners to replace my worn ones.
    Interested to see the new budget posts…I hear you on revealing too many numbers.

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      Ahh, so we were basically on par for groceries! It’s interesting to see how it’s affecting everyone. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, as it’s been a hot topic in the news too.

  • debt debs July 31, 2014 at 5:54 am

    I’m curious as to how you think sharing your numbers will increase the risk of identity theft. It’s something I need to think of myself if I can understand the connection. I also have an expired passport, but with no travel planned I’m delaying the renewal but will probably go with the 10 year one too. Groceries are also our problem area. Groceries and gas go up but not wages. ugg.

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 9:37 am

      To be honest, it’s just a weird gut feeling I got one day. Like “omg, my full name, face and all kinds of personal information are online…what am I doing!?”. I no longer felt ok with it, so decided it was time to make a change. I’m still going to talk about what I’m doing with my finances each month, but hope that percentages will reveal some new spending/saving strategies I’ve come up with. Percentages will also help me include my full income (I’ve always shown a budget for less than what I make), without revealing how much I make in side income, etc. as it varies month-to-month.

  • Jon @ Penny Thots July 31, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Great job getting rid of so much stuff! I make it a point to get rid of a piece of clothing when I buy something new. I do the same with books too. It helps me keep some control on my clutter.

    As others (and you) have said, even though you came up in the red for the month, you did a great job! The passport spending is a necessary evil and money well spent.

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks, Jon! And yes, I plan on purging another 75 items this year, but will try to stick to 1-in-1-out after that.

  • Cari July 31, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Hi Cait – I can certainly understand why for privacy reasons you’ll stop inputting your own numbers in the budget. I am looking forward to seeing what you’ve come up with though for us to use.

    I am public with my blog so to speak, it’s my first name, my picture and I’m still trying to decide if I want to actually publish my total debt for all to see.

    Have a great day!

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      That’s a personal choice, for sure. Not sure I can give much advice on that, except to say I don’t regret sharing how much debt I had and I’ve learned so much from others who have also shared theirs.

  • Kapitalust July 31, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Completely understand the feeling on how much to share online.

    I struggle with it too, but since I am fairly anonymous online, I would feel ok with sharing numbers. But if I weren’t, I would definitely be on the cautious side.

    I don’t even use Mint because I get paranoid.

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      Oh, I’m with you there!

  • Rob July 31, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Not a bad month overall, Cait. If not for your unplanned passport expense, overall your total actual expenses only exceeded your total expense budget by $20. I consider that very acceptable. In my budgeting I don’t tend to worry too much at the granular detail level regarding over spending just so long as I compensate in other areas of my monthly budget. As to my food category, I tend to lump my restaurant and home groceries expenses together, giving me some flexibility from month to month. And yes, food prices (no matter where spent) have steadily been rising. A few causes: (1) increased transportation costs (oil prices rising) and (2) California’s multi-year drought (affecting food production nationwide since much of the produce and livestock feed comes from that region).

    As to using percentages, well you know that I’m in that camp, rather than quoting actuals, especially when reporting on variances (budget vs actual), as I’ve commented here before. It’s just more meaningful in my opinion.

    As to identity theft concerns, well I take your point but being an old IT guy I know of a lot of other areas that can also be useful to crooks and/or private investigators who wish to collect info on a person. But suffice to say there is no need to post detail financial actuals online, even if it is pretty generic in nature.

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Yea, I’ve read a lot about why food prices are going up, it just feels like something crazy happened this month. Again, I know some of it was because I made some dinners for friends, bought a few more expensive things for sake of convenience, but still! Anyway, I’m going to shop at a different grocery store in August/September and see if anything changes.

      I’m really looking forward to sharing percentages instead of actual numbers. I have a challenge in mind for the next year that might make budgeting a little more fun/interesting again!

  • Kassandra July 31, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I posted on the topic of not sharing my financial numbers this week and it really is a personal decision. I don’t believe your readers will take offense and you need to do what feels right for you.
    I had planned to renew my current passport for a 10 year one when I was in Montreal earlier this month. Now that I live in the US it would be a lot less hassle to have a ten year one. The average wait time at the closest passport offices was four hours – yeah that wasn’t happening. I’ll do it on my next visit as I still have a little more than a year before it expires.

    • Cait Flanders July 31, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      Random question, Kassandra: Have you written about how you are from Canada / now live in the U.S. before?

      • Kassandra August 1, 2014 at 6:57 pm

        Hey Cait, to sweeten the pot, I was born in Trinidad, raised in Canada and now live in the US. And nope I haven’t addressed that yet :)

        • Kassandra August 1, 2014 at 7:04 pm

          Actually I have mentioned it here and there on the blog, but I still have yet to do a post on the back-story of my move.

          • Cait Flanders August 1, 2014 at 10:39 pm

            I’d be mostly curious about how you got down to the states – like work/visa-wise and all that! You don’t read enough about it, but I don’t know if you’re comfortable sharing either. Anyway, just thought I’d ask. :)

  • J @ the expat investor August 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Seem like you was busy this month with purging all of your unwanted items. I can understand the privacy issue, but whatever makes you feel comfortable. I like to do it for accountability, but putting out all the numbers out there also make me nervous sometimes.

    • Cait Flanders August 1, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      Oh, I’ll still keep tracking numbers for myself, but just want to keep some private. I think I’ll even still say like “I spent $X on groceries” or whatever, in paragraphs… I’m just not going to post my entire budget.

  • Shannon August 1, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Ohh you finished Accidental Creative! What did you think?

    • Cait Flanders August 1, 2014 at 10:38 pm

      I can’t lie, I wasn’t a huge fan – but mostly because it felt repetitive in parts, and I don’t like the idea of scheduling time to be creative (or scheduling your whole day, for that matter).

  • Miss Millennial August 2, 2014 at 10:43 am

    I have to admit, it’s good (selfishly) to see you switching to percents… I’ve been doing percents as well, and I’ve been struggling with whether I should actually go to dollars. Glad to see your perspective on percents!

    Also, congrats on a great month! You’re doing awesome!

    • Cait Flanders August 4, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      Thanks, MM!