Update: September 2014 Budget & Goals

September 30, 2014


At the beginning of the month, I knew September was going to be expensive… I mean, really expensive. With so many trips planned in the same 3-week period, plus two weddings to buy gifts and a dress for (which was on the approved shopping list!), I had to budget 60% of my income for living expenses and a whopping 35% for travel. That left me with just 5% for savings – eek! – and I was not happy about it.

As soon as I saw those numbers, I told myself I had to try and cut back wherever possible, in order to put a little more in the bank. Was I successful? Let’s take a look.

Life Expenses – Budget: 60% / Actual: 56% / Difference: -4%

Considering how much I spent on wedding gifts this month, I am happily surprised I was able to spend less on life expenses, overall. (Oh, and I changed the name of this category from “living expenses” to “life expenses”, because this really just encompasses all of my spending, minus what I save and all my travel-related costs.) I still had two overages, though. For starters, considering how few days I was home, I spent a lot of money on groceries. But I probably should’ve budgeted for a little more than I had. Second, my Internet bill went up by $5/month. Apparently, TELUS had me on some $5 off promotion that no one told me they’d given me, until I called and asked where the extra $5 came from. Not much I can do about that, I guess. On the plus side, I had to renew my car insurance and it went down by $1.71/month. Ok, that’s basically nothing. And I guess I’ll just give that money to TELUS now, lol. The two other areas I surprisingly came in under budget: gas and restaurants. The no-takeout-coffee-at-home rule lives on!

Travel – Budget: 35% / Actual: 32% / Difference: -3%

This feels like a huge win for me! That’s probably sad – my measly little 3% difference – but I travelled for 17 of 30 days this month, and I’m happy I was able to do (almost) everything I wanted to in each city and still come in under budget overall. Of course, I went over budget during my time in Toronto (by $74.83). However, I then overestimated the costs of my trips to Portland and New Orleans, and came in under budget for both! Oh, and I can’t forget the two other travel-related expenses I incurred. First, I purchased a year’s worth of travel insurance. I’m someone who normally purchases insurance even for day trips over the border, because… well, I’d just rather be safe than sorry, when I’m in the US. I know my credit card has travel emergency medical insurance, but you don’t use a credit card to drive yourself over the border. So, for $58.63, I opted in and am now covered for all 10-day trips anywhere in the world for the next 12 months. I also finally took the plunge and applied for a NEXUS card. Considering how much I do travel, paying $50 every 5 years to save a million hours at customs and security sounds worthwhile to me!

Savings – Budget: 5% / Actual: 12% / Difference: +7%

Of course, the bonus of coming in under budget in the two categories above means that I was able to put all that extra money in savings – and thank goodness! I’m still not happy I could only put 12% into savings in an entire month, but I have to give myself a pass because of all the trips. Things will look a little different in October, and extremely different come November.

Goals for this month:

  • Read 2 books – PASS! This month, I read Torch and When She Makes More.
  • Workout 10x – PASS! If we include today’s workout, I’ll be at 11.
  • Remove 15+ items from home – PASS! I removed 25 more items.
  • Soak up my time in Portland and New Orleans – PASS! I didn’t get to see everything I would’ve liked to in New Orleans, though… that just means I’ll have to go back, one day!
  • Do some extra freelance and put the cash directly into savings – FAIL! I made $0 in side income this month, but it was nice to have the break from extra deadlines.

How did September finish up for you, friends?

  • Dayle September 30, 2014 at 4:11 am

    You had a great month!

    For myself:
    – stayed under budget for the Boston trip
    – applied for a cash-back VISA card that I am going to start using for everything…I feel like I’m ready!
    – finished my 18th book for the year to meet my goal
    – worked out 25x this month, a far cry from the 18 I managed in August (my goal is to work out 6x per week)

    Have a great Tuesday!

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 6:44 am

      We’re on the same page w/ the cash back VISA, Dayle! I got one in July that I use for absolutely everything, always pay off the balance and have earned a ridiculous amount of cash back. If I can do it, I know you can! (Also, maybe I should blog about this, lol.)

      Congrats on finishing your 18th book! I got on a roll at the end of the month, and am going to try for 20 by the end of the year. Which ones have been your favourite so far, this year?

      • Dayle September 30, 2014 at 9:46 am

        Reconstructing Amelia
        Gone Girl
        Me Before You

        • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 10:11 am

          LOVED Me Before You. Although I hated the ending.

          • Dayle September 30, 2014 at 10:44 am

            I did too!!

            **spoiler alert*

            I totally thought they were going to be together and live happily ever after.

  • Brandy September 30, 2014 at 4:42 am

    Great job on your goals this month! I also need to work on my reading, working out, and cleaning out my house :)

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 6:45 am

      Thanks, Brandy! All in moderation. I didn’t workout much in the first 2 weeks, so really pushed myself after New Orleans. But reading more has been the best goal I’ve achieved lately :)

  • Alicia September 30, 2014 at 4:57 am

    You know, 12% is right in the target area if you were just doing the “save for 65 year old retirement”, so I don’t think that’s a bad thing whatsoever. It just looks kind of “blah” in comparison to your 40%+ savings/debt repayment. It’ll average out in the long run, so as long as you don’t have a month like September every other month you’ll be fine :) You still saved, even with the craziness of 17/30 days away!

    I’m in the process of looking at my September monthly update, and it won’t be as stellar as normal on debt repayment. I had a couple car expenses that knocked me back a little bit. Ah well, it still went down – just not as much as I hoped. You win some, you lose some :)

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 6:51 am

      Nope, I’d say September will be the worst month for me, savings-wise. I’m budgeting 18% for October (will be more, if I can freelance a bit) and potentially up to 41% in November (month of no travel)! Although, now that you mention car expenses, I think I need to get new tires… so that might knock savings down to 30%. Anyway, we’ll see. Look forward to your update!

  • Kate@GoodnightDebt September 30, 2014 at 5:11 am

    Staying under budget with that many days away is pretty impressive. Nice job! I think it’s kind of funny (in the nicest way) that are you bummed about 12% savings. How much were you saving 4 or 6 years ago? Oh how far you’ve come!

    September was a good month for me. I’ve got some big changes coming in my debt repayment and I’m excited to see if I can be as successful as I hope to be!

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 6:53 am

      Ok, that’s very true. Thanks for the reminder, Kate. It’s just tough to swallow because I see my paycheques come in and know I have the ability to save more… just, not this month.

      And that’s really exciting! You’ve made an incredible amount of progress, since you started your blog. Paying off $20K in 10 months is no joke. Look forward to seeing what you do next!

  • Kassandra September 30, 2014 at 5:23 am

    Given all the traveling I think you did pretty well this month and you were able to save more than you had projected which is good! I have to tally up the spreadsheets today but I know that overall our expenses this month were higher than usual due to a car repair bill, website expenses and New Orleans travel related costs.

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 6:56 am

      Those stupid cars, eh? You and Alicia have me thinking about mine now… it doesn’t need repairs, per se, but could definitely use a new set of tires. I’ll have to think about where to budget that in. Anyway, good luck adding up your numbers! Are you travelling much in October?

      • Kassanra September 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm

        I’ll be back in Montreal starting next week-end for two weeks mainly on business. DH is still on the road until the end of October. November is Ottawa but that’s for my annual girls’ weekend trip and Dec is Montreal again and somewhere that we haven’t yet decided on for a very overdue honeymoon. I’m tired already!

  • Bridget September 30, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Nice job!

    September actually finished well for me… taking only 4 classes this term instead of 5 lowered my tuition, so it was less than I budgeted for. My internship extended my contract for September and now again through October until they find someone else. It won’t be killer money but it’s way more than zero and puts me 2 months ahead.

    September was good!

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      That’s good news about the internship! Will definitely help your cash flow. And your September was good for other reasons too. :) <3

  • K September 30, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Exciting to see that your September turned out so well! I’m eager to see what mine pans out to be! I know it’s going to be ugly, but it’ll be nice to see the starting point – things can only go up from there, right? I’ll be posting a screenshot of my budget worksheet soon!

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Nice! I kind of miss posting mine (still do them but don’t share), but also really love the percentages. I find it much more motivating. Good luck adding up your numbers! And yes, it’s just a starting point, so don’t be super hard on yourself the first time around!

  • Money Pincher September 30, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Great to see that you were able end up saving 7% this month instead of 5%! :)

    I think I have done probably quite badly in September due to the wedding I attended and an expensive gift that I purchased. I am still in the process of adding things up. Hopefully there will be a silver lining. :)

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      12% actually! And I’ll cross my fingers for your silver lining. :)

  • Kate @ Cashville Skyline September 30, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Great job shaving down those expenses, Cait. I’ve still gotta run the numbers from this month, but I think I was able to keep things reasonable. FinCon was a lot cheaper than I was expecting. And my food/drinks budget wasn’t out of control.

    I’m seriously digging your image on this post!

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Yea, I felt the same way about FinCon! I thought I would spend a lot more on food than I did. Can’t complain about coming home from a trip with money. :)

      And thanks! I created similar ones for every month of the year.

  • Jon @ Penny Thots September 30, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Nice job finding ways to save a little more for the month. I think I have to start tracking my expenses on my blog going forward. It will be great to be help more accountable and have others chime in and motivate me through the tough times.

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      Give it a shot, Jon! I know not everyone likes to share, but it’s always kept me accountable. And, even if I didn’t always like it at the time, I’m really glad people called me out on things like how much I used to spend on Starbucks, lol. I also just love looking back at previous months and seeing how things have changed over time.

  • Ciel Belle September 30, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Awesome job on the savings and working out Cait! I will need to check out those books you read.

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Torch was kinda meh… but I really liked When She Makes More! So much that I’m going to giveaway a copy next week. Stay tuned!

  • Nadia September 30, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Yay for saving more than you thought you would! It’s a victory!

    I’m glad September is over as this was an expensive month. Looking forwards to October as I should *fingers crossed* pay off my 1st student loan.

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      That would be amazing! :D

  • Rob September 30, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Hi Cait. Looks like you’ve had a very good month, with a lot getting accomplished, along with some coins still left in your pockets! Congratulations! You know, you may not always save as much as as you would like to, from month to month, but so many people (who make a lot more than most of us) don’t manage to save so much as a dime! So lady be proud of your discipline and tenacity to meet those goals of yours.

    My September has finished not too bad, financially speaking. Actuals consistently under budget (as planned). Investment-wise, income results have dropped a tad (compared to most months) but, this being September, it’s often the case in the markets (as one can see in recent TSX / Wall Street results). No worries though, it’s all part of the invest and hold strategy that I use.

    Oh, and btw, you got mail! :-)

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks, Rob! And I too saw a little dip in my investments, of course, but am learning to ignore it… even if it hurts! lol

      Will check now!

  • Brittany @ Fun on a Budget Blog September 30, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    I love the way you have this laid out with the goals you set at the beginning of the month and how you ended up faring! Looks like you did great and had a lot of fun :)

    • Cait Flanders September 30, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks, Brittany!

  • Trista October 2, 2014 at 8:21 am

    I’m glad to see you did so well this month. I stayed on budget with my trip too. I used the extra cash to pay off a little bit of credit card debt. I’ve also started my new savings-centered budget and it’s going well. I’ve stayed on track so far. I’ll be paying off my credit card next week (again) and then focusing on building a planned spending account and a emergency account. Also to help with the tax bill next year I’ve been making RRSP contributions of about 20% of my side income.

    • Cait Flanders October 2, 2014 at 9:14 am

      That’s awesome, Trista! Hope you have a great October!