Update: November 2014 Budget & Goals

December 1, 2014


If you’re reading this on my actual website (not in your inbox or an RSS feed), your eyes might still be adjusting to the new design. I’ve been thinking about redesigning the site for a while now, and finally found myself with a few hours to spare + some inspiration on Saturday afternoon. I have to thank Mom, Sarah and my friend Koh for giving me some feedback over the weekend, because I am so happy with how it turned out. It’s a fresh start for the (almost) new year. I hope you like it, too!

Now, before I start to plan for the busiest (and usually most expensive) month of the year, I still need to add up my numbers from last month. November was an unusually good month for me, because I picked up more freelance work than I did in any other month this year. That being said, I expect to earn exactly $0 in freelance in December, so I was conscious to put most of it in savings. Anyway, because of that extra money, my final numbers look pretty good. Take a look…

Life Expenses – Goal: 60% / Actual: 49% / Difference: -11%

First and foremost, it feels great to see that I lived on just 49% of my income, but I technically still went over budget – and by a significant amount. For example, when I renewed my tenant insurance policy, I paid for the entire year ($288) versus setting up a monthly plan (which you finance and end up paying more for); that’s something I hadn’t planned to do. But then my food and gas surprisingly came in under budget, considering I was home for almost the entire month… and I’m under budget for Christmas, too! The Flanders have decided to switch things up this year, to have a more minimalist Christmas, so all our budgets went down there. But overall, November was definitely an expensive month. Thank goodness for freelance work.

Car Maintenance – Goal: 18% / Actual: 12% / Difference: -6%

I also had to pay for one major expense this month: new tires for my car. Fortunately, I had researched prices and knew what I’d be looking at, so there were no surprises. I budgeted for a certain amount and ended up spending exactly that + $0.63. I came in “under” budget, however, because of all the freelance work I ended up doing. Either way, it felt like a win – and I love the way my new all weather tires drive.

Travel – Goal: 4% / Actual: 9% / Difference: +5%

Mid-month, I travelled to Toronto to speak on a panel at Credit Education Week. The flight was paid for, so I only needed to budget for parking at the airport in Vancouver, and then transportation and food in Toronto. Did I blow my budget on just that? No. I ended up also booking a flight to my favourite city in the states, to visit one of my closest friends… but we’ll talk about that more on Wednesday!

Savings – Goal: 18% / Actual: 30% / Difference: +12%

Finally, the big win: I was able to save 30% of my income this month. Not only that, I also topped up my Emergency Fund! One of my goals for 2014 was to top it up to $10,000, but I downgraded that goal in May. At the time, though, I had no idea I’d pick up a new freelance client that would provide me with some fairly steady work all year. I still can’t believe I achieved my original goal. Now I need to map out what’s next!

In honour of Financial Literacy Month, my goals this month were to:

  • Speak on a panel at Credit Education Week in Toronto – PASS!
  • Top up my Emergency Fund – PASS!
  • Research/update/buy all insurance policies – PASS!
  • Pay to get new tires put on my car – PASS!
  • Get annual copy of my credit report/credit score – PASS!

And then I wanted to workout 15x and read 2 books, as per usual! – PASS! I worked out 18x and read 2 books (The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau).

How did your month finish up?

*Note: I also want to congratulate the winner of last week’s giveaway: Dayle. Hope you enjoy your new Kobo Aura! And thank you again to everyone who entered in all of last month’s giveaways.

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods December 1, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Nicely done! Way to go on putting yourself in an awesome position right before the month of mega expenses :). I’m loving your new site design–very sleek and lovely.

    November was a high spend month for us because we hosted Thanksgiving, did a bunch of home improvements, and took a weekend trip. But, it wasn’t too extreme and all were good expenses–nothing we regret or wish we’d done differently.

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      I actually don’t think December is going to be too expensive for me… from what I’ve determined so far, that is! But we’ll see. And if you wouldn’t do anything differently, that’s all that matters. :)

  • Kate@GoodnightDebt December 1, 2014 at 5:02 am

    You did great this month! Look at all that green! Hopefully December isn’t too expensive!

    My November was mostly normal in overall spending. I bought out my car, which due to the timing of it let me skip a month for my payment. That gave me a little extra padding in my student loan payments. Gotta love above average debt repayment months!

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks, Kate! I actually think December is going to be fairly cheap, considering how much travelling I’m doing. It’s just typically one of the most expensive months of the year. And that’s great news about the extra debt repayment!

  • moneystepper December 1, 2014 at 5:23 am

    Good work in November – a sea of green!! :)

    30% savings rate is pretty impressive – well played!

    November was also good for me – net worth up about 5% and kept very much in line with my budget! Happy days!

    Have a great week and well done again on the November results!

    Graham (moneystepper)

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Thanks, Graham! And a 5% boost sounds good to me. :)

  • Brittany @ Fun on a Budget Blog December 1, 2014 at 5:40 am

    Wow! Great progress and work with the savings :)

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 3:00 pm


  • strandedrocks December 1, 2014 at 5:48 am

    I don’t know if you have previously written about the minimalistic Christmas you and your family are celebrating this year but I would love to learn about it. I myself don’t buy gifts and I never expect any. It’s fine now that I am adult but I felt self-conscious as a kid going back to school and dreading the question, “What did you get for Christmas?” I felt if I said nothing they would pity me, but it wasn’t that I just never wanted anything. I only like giving gifts when I know there is a real need for stuff. Two years ago my brother and I bought our parents a laptop and it feels good to know they are using it.

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      I haven’t, no, but I will sometime this month! We’re basically just doing stockings, and have set a small max. on the amount each person will receive. It was fairly easy for me to come up with a small list, as there are a few things I need that I’m not allowed to buy because of the shopping ban. So I’ll be grateful for any of them. :)

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach December 1, 2014 at 6:21 am

    What a great month Cait! I’m impressed at your savings rate! I love that you guys are “downgrading” Christmas too! Seems like something everyone should do!

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      Thanks, Tonya! And I couldn’t agree more. I have a feeling this will be one of the best Christmases yet, and also the least expensive. :)

  • Will December 1, 2014 at 6:24 am

    Tires definitely make a huge difference in performance! Glad you didn’t cheap out! :)

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Me too!

  • Rob December 1, 2014 at 6:45 am

    Love your new blog design, Cait. Also, congratulations on achieving all your goals this past month, as well as achieving all your financial targets. You’ve come a long way since the early days of your blog, haven’t you.

    And in glancing over your approved shopping list for this year I guess that you are now in good shape for purchasing the last 3 outstanding items on your clothes/shoes list (especially that 1st one)! :-)

    My November finished up well as well. All painting and outdoor yard work projects have now been completed. My neighbour buddy and I got well paid for all that church painting work that we did – which we then proceeded to flip it back as church charity donations (a win-win as they got free painting work and we will be getting a nice tax credit benefit). Investment-wise our portfolio increased overall by 1.4% in value and our monthly income exceeded expenditures quite nicely as well.

    So all looks good heading into our December Christmas spending as we’ll be getting additional income with our year end Visa rewards cash backs.

    And finally, I’ll have you know – Toronto’s first snowfall of the year has now all melted and we’re back to green again (crossing my fingers and toes and eyes that it stays that way for awhile). :-)

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 6:21 pm

      I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately – how different my situation/budgeting skills are today compared to 1 year, 2 year, 3 years ago. I think I’m finally on the right track to living the life I want, and it feels great. :)

      Yes, I could definitely afford to buy everything that’s leftover on my list (there’s actually 4 items, I haven’t bought boots I just know I want some). However, I still don’t really need anything… I’ll talk a bit about that when I do my 5-month check-in next week.

      Glad to hear you had a great month! And how nice you donated your earnings back to the church. I’m all done my Christmas shopping now, except for a couple picture frames I need to pick up, so December is looking like it’ll be one of the cheaper months of the year for me… weird!

      • Rob December 1, 2014 at 7:02 pm

        “I still don’t really need anything”

        Not even that 1st item on your list? :-)

  • Sarah December 1, 2014 at 6:47 am

    You know I love the new design! It looks fabulous and clean, which my eyes love.

    And congrats on blowing your savings goal out of the water! (Hitting it out of the park?) Amazing! You’re rocking this thing.

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      Haha, I’ll take both metaphors! Thanks, lady.

  • Alicia December 1, 2014 at 6:53 am

    I was looking at your site on the weekend and I noticed the new layout – I like it! Still very clean and easy to navigate, but with a bit more pizazz! Everyone is updating and I want to as well,… maybe some day soon :)

    As for your budget, isn’t it awesome that you reached your EF goal, even after you downgraded in May? That’s some awesome freelancing right there!

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      You should! It wasn’t too difficult and I’m really happy with it. I wanted something more clean/minimalistic but also a little modern. I think it checked off all my boxes!

      And yes, I’m happy I was able to reach that goal this year. If anything, I thought I might’ve done it by the end of December… but mid-Nov? Such a good feeling. :)

  • Amanda Sandlin December 1, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Love the new site! You are prolific, and an inspiration. ;)

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      Aww, thanks dear! I did it as soon as we hung up the phone on Saturday. Just felt inspired to take at least one action to move towards “what’s next”. :)

  • Petrish @ Debt Free Martini December 1, 2014 at 7:50 am

    I really like your website, its nice a clean. I’m impressed with living only on 49% of your living expense. paying off so much debt in two years is a major accomplishment. Look forward to following your story.

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks, Petrish! I can’t always live on less than half my income, but it’s something I’m striving for. :)

  • Kate @ Cashville Skyline December 1, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Very impressive, Cait! A solid November will certain make up for a more expensive month in December. 30% savings rate is awesome! I prefer to pay upfront for things at a discount, as well. I’ve been doing that with my car insurance for years. Have a fantastic week!

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      Car insurance would be more difficult for me, as it’s around $1,800/year. Although, maybe one day I won’t feel that way… hmm. Something to think about!

  • Kate @ Cashville Skyline December 1, 2014 at 10:36 am

    I’m really digging the site redesign, by the way! :)

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 6:29 pm


  • Melanie @ Dear Debt December 1, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I love the look of the site and congrats on your savings and freelance work. That is awesome. Nice job!

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      Thanks, Mel!

  • Bridget December 1, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    New design looks great!!!

    And great job on living on less… I might follow suit and try the same: I bet I could live on 50% of my income and bank the rest.

    Props on the $10K EF! That’s one of my goals and I’m only going to achieve it because I’ve learned to hide my money from myself in GICs. I just bought my second 3-year $1,000 GIC today (I’m buying one every 3 months).. and good thing I did, because about 2 hours later I was trying to determine how I could wrangle more money into my brokerage account was like, “maybe I could use my EF…” – nope, locked up for years and years.

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      I’m quite certain you could live on 50%! Especially since you and fiance already talk about living off just one income and saving the rest. If you both did this, it’d be the same thing.

      And nicely done! Although I have to say, it’s not often you hear of people buying GICs anymore. Would love to read about why you like them. :)

      I’m going to divvy up my EF into a couple different accounts next year. Still want at least 50% of it to be accessible, because of some plans I have for later in the year. But I’m cool with tying some of it up, too.

  • Cassie December 1, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    I like the new layout Cait :)

    Congratulations on hitting 10K!

    • Cait Flanders December 1, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      Thanks, hun! Appreciate it. And miss you. :)

      • Cassie December 2, 2014 at 11:10 am

        Miss you too!

  • Carrie Smith December 3, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I LOVE the new look of the site! It’s so clean and easy to read/navigate. Great job!

    I’m super proud of you for only living on 49% of your income in November. That’s a huge accomplishment. Also you saved 30% of your money towards goals, which is so freaking cool. You inspire me every day! <3

    • Cait Flanders December 3, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks, hun! For the comments re: the site and your constant support. So lucky to be able to call you my friend. Can’t wait to see you again – hopefully sooner than later! xo

  • Aleksandra Sagan December 4, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Congratulations on topping up your emergency fund!

    My goal is to get mine to $10,000 over two years. I’m currently just under $3,500.

    But, I’m also putting nearly 40% of my income to lots of other savings goals at the moment too – having just paid off some $28,000 of student loans in October, it’s definitely time to start building up my savings aggressively. So, my emergency fund is only getting some of the savings money and the rest is going towards retirement, travel fund, big ticket purchases (like a dog in the near future hopefully) and charity.

  • Lisa December 5, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Loving the new look! Living on 49% of your income is amazing! I hope I can get to that point one day…