August 2014 Budget & Goals

August 4, 2014


Say hello to my new and improved monthly budget posts! These are going to look very different from the budget spreadsheets you’re used to seeing here, but I’m really excited about the change of “scenery”.

As I mentioned last week, one of the reasons I wanted to switch up the format of these posts was because I was starting to feel weary about having all my numbers out there for the world to see. There are, however, two bigger reasons my old posts weren’t working. First, I budgeted for less than what I made each month, so it wasn’t an accurate representation of my spending habits. Second, my budgets didn’t include any freelance income, or show what I did with that money + what was leftover from my regular income.

By switching to percentages, we’ll be able to see a crystal clear picture of where all my money is going – even if I’m not sharing the actual dollar amounts. For example, my housing expenses only add up to 33% of my take home pay, not the 37-41% I had to claim with my smaller budget – that’s a huge difference! How do the rest of my numbers add up? Let’s take a look.

Living Expenses – Budget: 58%

new-budget-living-expensesRight off the bat, I can tell you that this overarching category of my budget is what excites me the most. If we go back to that conversation I had with a friend in June, I asked her how much of her income she actually needed to live off of. Was saving 20% of her income good enough, or could she live off less and save more? I’m challenging myself to answer that same question regarding my own finances.

So, the first thing I did was take all the expenses in my budget template, other than savings and travel, and move them under one new category: Living Expenses. I decided to include absolutely everything (even spending money), because these are all the things that currently make up my regular daily life. I mentioned at the beginning of this shopping ban that I wasn’t going on a consumer fast, but I do want to try and live on a little bit less. So, this is what’s in my current budget. (–>)

As for actual numbers, I can tell you that everything looks pretty standard, with a few exceptions:

  1. I changed my “Entertainment” budget to just a “Netflix” budget (I used to also buy books under this category, but obviously can’t do that anymore)
  2. A number of budgets (Groceries, Gas, Parking) have smaller amounts because I’m travelling so much this month, and
  3. I boosted my Personal Care budget so I can look for a few things on my “Approved Shopping List” in Edmonton, where I’ll only have to pay 5% tax vs. 12% in BC.

Before I added up these numbers, my goal was to one day live off only 55% of my income (a stretch goal would be 50%, but my rent is currently too high for that). Apparently, I’m not that far off, as this month’s living expenses only require 58% of my take home pay. It’s crazy to see how different your financial picture can seem, if you just move things around and try to look at it from a different angle. If I wasn’t travelling so much this month, I could potentially save up to 42% of my income. That. Is. Crazy.

Savings – Budget: 23%

My savings goals are fairly basic this month. First, I’m going to continue to put $320 into both my Emergency Fund and Retirement accounts. After that, I need to tuck some money aside for trips I’m going on in September. As you’ll see below, one of my goals for this month is to do some extra freelance to help pay for those trips. I have not included any freelance income in this monthly budget, as I don’t know how much I’ll be able to make yet. The 23% quoted above is based only on my full-time regular income, so this number (and the others) may look a lot different by the end of the month.

Travel – Budget: 19%

Finally, this month I’m spending 1 week at home, then 1 week in Victoria, 1 week in Edmonton and 1 week in Toronto, so my travel budget is obviously a lot larger than usual. I’m excited to go to each city, but I’m most looking forward to our road trip to Edmonton. I can’t wait to see Cassie, Mikhaila and some friends from Royal Roads, as well as spend quality time with the fam and get Baby Bro all settled into school.

And that’s that! At the end of the month, I’ll quote the original percentages I budgeted for then give you the actual percentages. For example: Savings – Budget: 23% / Actual: 30% / Difference: +7%. Cool? I know this doesn’t show you guys exactly how much I’m spending on housing (which never changes), groceries, health care, personal items, etc. but my ultimate goal with this new format is to show that it’s possible to live off less, consume less and save way more. I’m excited to see how this first month finishes up!

Goals for this month:

  • Read 1 book
  • Workout 10x (less than usual, because I’m travelling so much)
  • Remove 15+ items from home
  • Road trip / move Baby Bro to Edmonton
  • Do some extra freelance to help pay for September trips

What do you have planned this month?

  • Alice @ Earning My Two Cents August 4, 2014 at 6:55 am

    Thanks for sharing these numbers! I am always inspired by other blogger’s budgets and especially your high savings percentage. This post got me thinking about what percentage of my monthly budget I paid for rent and utilities and it’s actually about 41%. Yikes. Rent alone is 28% which is good but the utilities are high especially because of the cable bill and the hot, hot summers (and spring and fall) here in Louisiana so we have the air conditioning running almost all year long.

    • Cait Flanders August 4, 2014 at 8:27 am

      Ahhh yes, you don’t often see AC in homes in Greater Vancouver, so I’ve never really thought about how it would affect utility bills – especially year-round. Thanks for sharing that, Alice!

  • Rob August 4, 2014 at 7:21 am

    New budget format looks good Cait! As you may know, in addition to tracking budget amounts vs actuals spent, I also track percentages – at the variance level – between the two in each category, monitoring trends (rising or falling) from month to month, which tells me how accurate my budgeting is going or if I need to adjust due to inflation, contingency Murphy’s Law allowances, as well as what is a “comfortable” yet effective budget to live on. It takes time and practice but gets to be routine after awhile.

    This month – more of the same (painting the house, yard work, etc.) Oh well, it keeps us old retired farts off the streets, eh> :-)

    • Cait Flanders August 4, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Yea, I’d eventually like to get to that point. I think the next few months will be a good challenge for me, just in terms of switching things up and trying to make it work. But then I’d like to get a little more detailed in how I track things month-to-month and year-to-year.

  • Alicia August 4, 2014 at 7:57 am

    I don’t disclose my salary either. I show how much I pay to my debt and how much I have saved, but I don’t put it back into percentages to my take home. I always loved your transparency of doing that, but I knew I didn’t have it in me :)

    A 42% savings rate would be amazing Cait! That sounds awesome :) good luck with flipping the script on how you prioritize your spending and savings.

    • Cait Flanders August 4, 2014 at 8:33 am

      I’m travelling so much the next 3 months that 42% won’t be possible, but I might aim for 40% in November! We’ll see what ends up happening that month…

      And yea, I was always comfortable sharing how things worked out with my smaller budget, but not revealing the exact amount I took home each month just made things so complicated. I want people to see real percentage breakdowns!

  • Dayle August 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    This month we will both be spending a little less in general and trying to save some extra money. On the radar for August is R’s b-day on Thursday, Jays game this wknd for a girlfriend’s b-day, camping the Aug 16 wknd, and Jason Aldean/FGL concert on Aug 28. I’m also doing a “run or dye” 5K race with my sister, and starting training for my half marathon in the fall. Busy as usual!

    • Cait Flanders August 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      Very busy as usual, haha. I shouldn’t be surprised. And it looks like you just had a great long weekend, too!

  • Eva August 4, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    When I first started blogging, I used to share my budget in a similar way as you do now (so I’d show percentage rather than an actual amount). It’s a lot easier for me to simply show an actual number as this is how it appears on my spreadsheet. I do keep some numbers private as I don’t want to disclose my salary either which fluctuates every month, so what’s the point anyway? ;) Once I start saving, I will go back to showing percentage only as I completely understand where you’re coming from… I wouldn’t want the whole world to know how much I have saved… there’s nothing wrong to share this information if you feel comfortable, but to me this is too personal and I think I’m the only person who should be aware of the actual amounts I have managed to save each month. Anyway, have fun travelling, this is so exciting!! :)

    • Cait Flanders August 4, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks, Eva! Yea, it’s not really the dollar amounts that bug me, but I’m uncomfortable sharing exactly how much I earn each month (mostly because it varies/would be weird to explain each month). I’ve always been pretty open here, but feel like I want a little slice of privacy – if that makes sense.

  • J @ the expat investor August 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Nice new and improved budget. Seem like you got a bit of traveling to do this month. Sounds fun, hope you have a good time.

    • Cait Flanders August 4, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      Lots of travel! And into September/October too. :D

  • Michelle August 4, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    I’m liking the new format! It’s a great idea considering you don’t want to divulge numbers and since you’re debt free, it makes it interesting to see how you’ve changed the percentages in your budget/spending.

    • Cait Flanders August 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Oh, for sure. I’m mostly fascinated at how easy it was to move some things around in my budget so I’m living off less than 60% of what I take home… that’s just crazy – in a good way! I have so much travel coming up that I won’t be able to save 40% anytime soon, but it’s good to know the potential is there.

  • KK August 4, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    I hear you on wanting to keep some things for yourself Cait. This week my mom arrives in NY for three weeks so she’ll be here to celebrate my birthday this month which is nice. I hope to take her to the Jersey Shore so she can feel some sand between her toes and I have never been there either so it’ll be fun.

    • Cait Flanders August 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Aww, that does sound like fun!

  • Sarah August 4, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    My plan for this month is to re-work my budget as well. I want to reduce my expenses and increase my savings a bit. Oh, and I’m basking in the glory of a completely spring-cleaned apartment! I was inspired by your recent cleaning spree and did the same in my apartment. I even cleaned out my storage locker! That wasn’t fun as I’ve been putting more and more stuff into it over the past 2 years, without even thinking about what I was doing with the stuff. I feel lighter and cleaner now!

    • Cait Flanders August 4, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      Ahhhh, that’s amazing, Sarah! Tackling a storage locker would be a big accomplishment. Nicely done. The best part is what comes after: being able to enjoy your space. :)

  • Trista August 5, 2014 at 4:48 am

    I like the new format Cait. We hear about the percentages that we should be spending in each category all of the time.

    I was re-hired at the store last night. I start next week. I’m looking forward to the extra cash, the employee discount and the social atmosphere. I had a really great chat with the manager too.

    Have I mentioned I have some pricey car maintenance coming up at the end of the year? I need a brake job and four new winter tires. This is one of the main reasons I’m going back. This will allow me to pay for those without dipping in to my regular budget allowances so I can start meeting my new goals of finally starting an emergency fund and a planned spending account.

    • Cait Flanders August 5, 2014 at 6:23 am

      Sounds like a good idea then, Trista! Just as long as your paycheque isn’t being spent in the store – this seems to be a common issue for everyone I know who works in retail.

      • Trista August 5, 2014 at 6:49 am

        Well… some of it will be spent in the store. I love falls clothes. Bring on the pencil skirts.

        We know that working in retail worked well for me before… I paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt in a year and a half while expanding my wardrobe.

  • L August 5, 2014 at 4:57 am

    Great post I love the percentages! I do my budget for two weeks, I am going to have a look at my percentages as well!!

    • Cait Flanders August 5, 2014 at 6:26 am

      Nice! Would love to hear if you could find a way to lower them at all (if you want to), after you do. :)

  • kathleen August 5, 2014 at 6:11 am

    I’m happy for your September travel! I used to share net worth numbers, but they were only interesting as they went from negative to positive. I found that my readers didn’t care that I was still doing fine, as much as they cared about digging my way out.

    • Cait Flanders August 5, 2014 at 6:30 am

      I am VERY happy for my September travel! :D

      Yea, I wasn’t too sure if I should ever include my net worth or not, so I appreciate your thoughts on it. It’s still something I’m thinking about, but may poll Twitter/the blog on the matter!

  • Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore August 5, 2014 at 9:14 am

    When the debt payments are gone, I will have so much more to put toward other things, like savings and also a little more “spending” money. I can’t wait until I have more cashflow to play with and help me with my life’s goals. It will be interesting to see your % budget at the end of the month.

    • Cait Flanders August 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm

      Yes, I’m looking forward to seeing percentages at the end too! Well, first I need to secure some freelance work, lol. What % are you currently putting towards debt, Kayla?

      • Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore August 6, 2014 at 1:08 pm

        About 25% of my full-time jobs income is put toward my consumer debt and student loans. If you include my HUGE mortage payment it is closer to 59% of my full-time job’s income. If you exclude the mortgage and include my side income it is about 22%, with the mortgage 54%.

  • Bridget August 5, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I like this format! It’s been so long since I’ve calculated an actual budget (I’ve had so many savings things automated for ages, and then when I make adjustments based on income I don’t necessarily think of it in percentage context of my income) but maybe it’s time I revist haha

    23% savings rate is awesome, particularly if that’s just based on salary. I love the 19% travel budget — wish I could afford that!!!! haha

    • Cait Flanders August 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm

      …just wait until you see September’s travel budget, lol.

  • Will @firstqfinance August 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    What book are you gonna read?!?!

    • Cait Flanders August 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Hmm, I haven’t decided yet! I started one but am not into it yet, so may swap it out.

  • Danielle August 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    I’ve been fluctuating between 25-35% savings rate each month since I’ve been debt-free. I’d like to keep it SOLID at 35% for a few months and then go from there since there are a few things I need to buy in the next while (new glasses primarily).

    August is the month of tiny travel (out of town to see family, a weekend at the inlaws) and a few sports costs (my axe-throwing league, a new gym membership) but I think I can safely do 35% of take-home this month if I put my mind on it!

    • Cait Flanders August 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      That’s great, Danielle! I’m sure you can.

  • Morgaine August 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    This is a really cool way of showing us your budget, Cait! I may do this too. I show on my blog what I spend my money on weekly but don’t include my fixed costs until the end of the month. That being said, I’m probably leaving myself a bit vulernable by showing my exact income and living expenses. Also, that so many people have commented about how small my mortgage and groceries budgets are, not taking into consideration I’m only paying 33% of the household bills since we split according to income. Anyways, I think this is great :)

    • Cait Flanders August 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      You should definitely give percentages a try! It may help you see your finances in a different way. :)

  • Kapitalust August 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    I like the new streamlined/simplified budget!

    Ours is very similar in simplicity – roughly breaks down into:

    18% – Rent
    32% – Spending
    50% – Saving

    • Cait Flanders August 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Daaaamn. Love it! Of my 58%, 33% is housing so only 25% is spending. :D

  • Nichelle @ How To Save Money August 11, 2014 at 4:32 am

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your percentages. I started my savings at 20% then gradually increased with 2-3% by the next month. Trying to increase income and decrease expenses to manage my cash flow better.