Update: August 2014 Budget & Goals

September 1, 2014


When I first decided to switch from sharing my exact numbers to percentages, I was a little worried about how I would format these posts. I think this month was a great first test, though, as it’s fairly safe to say my expenses will always go under three categories: living expenses, savings and travel.

My goal is to try and live off 55% of my income or less, and I’m happy to report I accomplished that this month. However, my travel expenses were crazy high and, as a result, I did not reach my savings goals. But it’s not all bad news… here’s how August finished up for me:

Living Expenses – Budget: 58% / Actual: 51% / Difference: -7%

Talk about a win: I lived off just 51% of my income this month; 48%, if we remove my charitable donations from the equation. I still went over in a couple categories, but I love looking at the numbers this way!

The overages were somewhat minimal. First, I knew I was going to pitch in for Dad’s birthday gift, but totally forgot about my “nieces” birthday gift. All her “aunties” and “uncles” pitched in and bought her a trampoline. Her reaction was priceless – and worth every penny. The second category I went over budget was charitable donations. Tangerine’s CMO Andrew Zimakas nominated me to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge when I was on the road, and I failed to do it within 24 hours, so I donated to the ALS Society of Canada instead. Sorry, Andrew! I still appreciate the nomination and was happy to participate in some way.

To support those overages, I came in under budget in a couple categories. The most surprising category was my restaurant budget, which included a week in Vancouver and a week in Victoria. I didn’t have any takeout coffee in Victoria, but I had boosted my budget with the assumption that I’d go out for more meals… and that just didn’t happen. Instead, I went on a lot more walks/hikes with friends. It was awesome. I also came in way under budget with personal care. I thought I’d buy a few items on my approved shopping list in Edmonton, where I could pay just 5% tax vs. 12% in BC but, again, that just didn’t happen! No complaints here, and the shopping ban goes on.

As a whole, I only went over budget on living expenses by $5.63. But I earned some freelance income this month, which is why I was able to live off just 51% of my income versus the 58% I had planned.

Savings – Budget: 23% / Actual: 19% / Difference: -4%

While the difference above for living expenses is great (under budget by 7%), it’s not such a good thing on the savings side of things – but, again, my freelance income is (somewhat) to blame. See, I actually put $475 into my Emergency Fund, versus the $320 I had planned to – so that’s a nice win! I also put the usual amount into my RRSPs. But then I didn’t save anything for my upcoming trips in September/October. Instead, I used freelance income to start booking things! So, I only saved 19% of my income this month, but I still met all my goals to some degree.

Travel – Budget: 19% / Actual: 30% / Difference: +11%

Oh, travel. I should’ve known it would get the best of my budget! The overages started in Edmonton, where I spent a million dollars at restaurants. (Ok, I went over budget by $105.68, but in that I treated Baby Sis to one lunch and then just didn’t hold back on all the amazing food that was there.) I actually came in under budget in my first week in Toronto, which was a nice surprise. But then I used a good chunk of my freelance income to book my hotel in Denver for Clare’s wedding in October. I am so, so, so excited about that trip.

All in all, August was a great month for my finances. Not only did this new budgeting strategy allow me to include my freelance income and, therefore, show you a crystal clear picture of where all my money is going, but I also finally saw my old pension get transferred into my RRSPs. As of Friday, my net worth is now $41,444; that’s a $14,944 increase from June, and it should only go up from here!

Goals for this month:

  • Read 1 book – PASS! This month, I read Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte. Thank goodness I downloaded it for free from the library, because it was… less than inspiring.
  • Workout 10x (less than usual, because I’m travelling so much) – PASS! I managed to workout 10x before leaving for Edmonton on the 19th, then also went for a couple long walks there too.
  • Remove 15+ items from home – PASS! I ended up removing another 17 items. I also grabbed a bag full of books, etc. that were at my parents’ house and am going to donate those when I get back.
  • Road trip / move Baby Bro to Edmonton – PASS! Such a fun trip!
  • Do some extra freelance to help pay for September trips – PASS! I wrote one article for Tangerine, which definitely helped the budget.

How did your month finish up?

  • Kassandra @ More Than Just Money September 1, 2014 at 5:45 am

    You had a great month overall Cait and the food in Edmonton sounds like it was heaven for you :) Our August was pretty good as well. Our spending was down considerably from the months of June and July and our billable income was up – just the way I like it! I’m preparing for travel in each month from mid-Sept through to Dec and DH will be away for work for six weeks straight! Happy Labour Day!

    • Cait Flanders September 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Sounds like you guys had a great month too then, Kassandra! Where is DH going for work?

  • Michelle September 1, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Wow great job on all the PASSes! I didn’t do as well as you. I had more FAILs and I’m hoping that changes this month.

    Also, great job on the crazy net worth increase since June!

    • Cait Flanders September 1, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      Thanks, Michelle! The pension is to thank, mostly – it’s nice to have that in my control now. Hope you have a good September!

  • Nadia September 1, 2014 at 6:47 am

    Way to Cait!

    My month’s budget is out thanks to my new glasses. I can cover most of it from my emergency fund and long term savings (savings I’m using to help cover trips, dental work, etc). But I still have an extra $250 or so to come up with. On the plus side my cheque next week should have my raise on it!

    • Cait Flanders September 1, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      Woo hoo! Congrats again on the raise. :)

  • Sara September 1, 2014 at 8:02 am

    I think I missed the update…why did you switch to reporting percentages?

    Maybe the saving category should come first? It took me a minute to figure out why a negative percentage was in red whist stuck between the other categories.

  • Sarah September 1, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Ugh, I wish my August was as good as yours. I was over budget by about $450, thanks to a bunch of unexpected expenses that decided to crop up all at once. Luckily, I could cover most of it with my savings, but then that leaves my savings accounts totally depleted and puts on hold the plans I originally had for that money. Here’s to a cheap September!

    • Cait Flanders September 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      I’ll just cheers to your cheap September, Sarah! Mine is going to be crazy expensive… so I’ll live vicariously through you, this coming month. Good luck!

  • Addison @ Cashville Skyline September 1, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Congrats on totally annihilating your goals this month! Living off 51% of your income is super impressive. Keep up the amazing work!

    • Cait Flanders September 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks, Addison!

  • Alicia September 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Good month, Cait :) and it’s awesome that your pension finally got into your hands in Tangerine accounts. It’s nice to have it in one place. And it gives you a CRAZY boost in your net worth calculation.

    I like the percentages, and I appreciate the fact that you don’t want to fully disclose (I do t either and I’m not blogging with my full name) your salary and freelance income, but I miss your old template. I guess I’m a creature of routine :)

    • Cait Flanders September 1, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Totally crazy boost, eh? No more of those now, haha.

      And I hear that – but that’s why I’m still trying to throw some numbers into the mix (with overages, etc.). I’m much happier with percentages, and honestly feel like I’m more motivated by them than the dollar amounts. Like I really want to see my total percentage for living expenses go down down down and stay there. But when I just look at numbers, I think “I’m allowed to spend this much”. It’s nice to look at things differently, if that makes sense.

  • Rob September 1, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    “But then I didn’t save anything for my upcoming trips in September/October. Instead, I used freelance income to start booking things!”

    I’m a tad confused here Cait (relating to your comment in the Savings section). If you are saving for upcoming trips then I assume that you would eventually use these savings to book your September/October trips. The fact that you’ve jumped to gun and started your bookings earlier (with freelance income) to me just means that you’ve used some of these savings earlier rather than later. The net result to me then is that you probably did (in one way or another) meet your savings goals for the month, as they relate to travel.

    So, all in all, congratulations to you on meeting your August goals.

    My August results also finished well. Budget-wise we underspent and thus ended up with a nice modest surplus. Investment-wise results also saw a nice 1.4% overall monthly increase in total valuation. Project-wise, my house painting progress continues on schedule, with target completion in September still looking feasible. So all is good.

    • Cait Flanders September 1, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      Yep, that’s why I said I still met them “to some degree” – it was just different than how I’d planned!

      I have a question about your investments. Did you move any of them into more conservative vehicles, after you retired? Or how often do you evaluate where your money is and where you should potentially move it to? I know I’m opening up Pandora’s Box with that question, so a simple answer is fine – just curious!

      • Rob September 1, 2014 at 8:03 pm

        Well Cait, to properly answer your question, a little bit of background history.

        By nature my wife and I have always been conservative investors, right from the day I started my first job after graduation and started saving for things like a house and rrsps. Fortunately back then I had no large debts (such as tuition, car payments, etc.) Thus, with interest rates back then being much higher than they are today, I invested in CDs using a 5 year interest rate ladder approach. Back then I also invested in spousal rrsp investments for my wife, which is a perfect way to set up a couple’s long term income splitting for tax savings purposes (assuming of course that you and wifey are in it for the long haul – lol).

        Time passed. We had kids. Our daughter eventually married a boy who took over his dad’s financial services business (upon his dad’s retirement). Our SIL eventually took over the handling of our financial holdings, investing in various conservatively balanced, but still income / growth oriented, mutual funds. These were diversified (bonds – stocks – hedge – geographically spread), with dividend reinvestment and regular rebalancing, as needed.

        The only action I took upon retirement was directed at our non-registered investments. Rather than continue to reinvest the monthly dividends in these funds, I arranged that these dividends be regularly cashed and thus become another income stream to complement the income that my wife and I receive from our CPP, OAS and her company pension. I didn’t take a pension at retirement but rather received lump sum accumulated company profit sharing and company savings funds which I rolled into our various investments. Thus our income streams fully meet our ongoing monthly expenses. The capital in our registered / non-registered funds remain untouched, allowed to passively (hopefully) grow in value, based on current market conditions.

        Monthly I track our investment progress but I rely on our professionally well managed mutual funds (which we’ve had for a number of years now) to handle the detailed investment decisions for us. Other than minimally investing directly in my company’s stock (whose value has greatly increased over the years), I don’t invest in individual stocks nor try to time the market. A fool’s game at best. So I don’t move things around as such.

        So the name of the game – in addition to budgeting, staying as much as possible debt free, try to invest even a little bit and let the money passively work for you and compound.

        I guess we can close that Pandora’s Box now, eh? Sorry it wasn’t a simple answer. :-)

  • Cassie September 1, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    I’m liking the new format :) Also, nicely done on hitting every single one of your monthly goals!

    • Cait Flanders September 1, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks, hun! I make my goals fairly easy, so I have a chance at actually accomplishing them, haha. But I may need some stretch goals in future months.

  • Jacquie September 1, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    The 51% thing is super impressive Cait!! It’s definitely inspiring me to structure my budget that way when my debt is gone (ALMOST THERE!).

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2014 at 6:56 am

      You’re so close! I’m cheering you on from here, Jacquie. :)

  • Michelle September 1, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    awesome job! I like the percentages also. That’s such a great goal to try to live on half your income.

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2014 at 6:57 am

      Thanks, Michelle! My goal was 55%, but it’s nice to see how even just a little bit of freelance income can make 50% a possibility. :D

  • Morgaine September 2, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Wow! You did amazing in August! Keep up the awesome work!!! :)

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Thanks, Morgaine! September’s budget is pretty ugly, with so much travel… so I’ll have to keep remembering how amazing August was, as I push through it, haha.

  • Daisy September 2, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Woah net worth! Girl, that is seriously impressive. I really like the percentages. Maybe it’s just my brain, but I actually like being able to see percentages rather than numbers. I think it’s more telling of success (or lack thereof). Also, #noregrets with the travel spending. I almost just wrote YOLO.

    • Cait Flanders September 3, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Yea, girl! My net worth will inch up very slowly, from now on… but it feels good to be sitting where I am right now – especially considering my net worth was just $7 two years ago!