March 2015: Final Budget & Goals

March 31, 2015


Holy moly, it feels like we haven’t talked about numbers in a while. I’ve been so transfixed on all the ways minimalism has changed my life lately that I nearly forgot how to format this post. ;)

For new readers – and I know there are many of you, based on stats and all the wonderful emails and comments you’ve sent me this month (hi!) – this isn’t just a minimalism blog (contrary to the last many posts, hehe). I started Blonde on a Budget four years ago when I was maxed out with nearly $30,000 of debt and used it to stay accountable as I paid it all off. While I’ve branched into new topics, as I’ve taken on challenges like the shopping ban, my debt repayment journey will always be at the core of my story.

I don’t write about money as often as I used to, but I will always share my monthly budgets with you. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t started tracking my spending and figuring out how to budget my money. It’s second nature to me now, though – so much, in fact, that this month I actually challenged myself to not write a budget, track my spending or compare budgeted amounts vs. actual amounts spent. Instead, I wanted to see if I could just spend money and hit my usual targets. Let’s see how I did…

Life Expenses: 51%

One of the reasons I started the shopping ban last summer was because I realized I’d let some serious lifestyle inflation creep in since paying off the last of my debt. I was still writing budgets but not understanding why I couldn’t hit my goal to save 20% of my income each month. During the two years it took me to pay down my debt, there were months where I was allocating upwards of 55% of my income towards that one goal. Where was all that extra money going!? To restaurants and bookstores, mostly.

When I started the shopping ban, I decided to change the way I wrote my monthly budgets. Rather than map out a plan to save 20% and spend the rest, I wanted to try and live off as little as possible (50% being the ultimate goal) and save/travel with the rest. As you can see, it’s been working.

I will say, March was still an expensive month. I was home for most of it and the weather in the last half wasn’t great, so there were more lunch/dinner dates indoors with friends than our usual hiking adventures. And then it seemed to be the month where I ran out of absolutely everything, so I had to make a couple trips to Costco and Walmart. Oh, and let’s not forget that spring came early to Vancouver, which meant my allergies kicked in. (Thank goodness generic brands of allergy pills are all that work for me!)

Taxes: 8%

I filed my taxes at the end of last month and found out I owed the government $385. It’s the first time I’ve ever owed money, but I was happy to pay it – means they haven’t been borrowing from me all year. ;)

Travel: 7%

I spent the first few days of the month in Victoria, BC, which is where I’m from. When I’m there, I stay with my parents (free) and visit with them and friends. So, this 7% was for my ferry cost + food.

Planned Spending: 5%

When my friend J. Money updated us on some of the money experiments he was doing, it inspired me to up the ante on how much I was putting in my “Shopping Ban” savings account each month. When I started in July, I was putting $100/month in there. As of this month, I’m now putting $250/month in this account. It’s now sitting at a clean $1,750. With only 3 months to go (98 days to be exact!), I should have $2,500 in there by July 6th. And I still have no idea how I’m going to spend it, haha.

Long-Term Savings: 29%

Finally, my goal now is to put 35% into long-term savings (namely retirement) each month, but the money I owed in taxes stole a little bit of that from me.

Overall, I’m really happy with how the numbers finished up in my first month without a budget! So, I think I’m going to try it again in April and see how I do for a second month. I will say: I would not recommend this to most people. I’ve just been budgeting for so many years now that I know I usually spend the same amounts on everything each month, I pay myself (a.k.a. save) first and my goals are always in the back of my mind, guiding any financial decisions I have to make.

I’ll likely write a budget in May, though, as I think I’ll be travelling for 90% of it. More on that later!

Goals for this month:

  • Begin the 30-Day Minimalist ChallengePASS! Today is Day 23, so I only have 1 week left!
  • Read 2 books – PASS! I read On My Own Two Feet by Amy Purdy and Mother Mother by Koren Zailckas. I also started Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (all about habits).
  • Workout 15x –FAIL! But I worked out 14x, so that’s not an epic fail, haha.

How did your month finish up, friends!?

And new readers, I’m curious: where are you in your financial life right now? Are there any questions you have or topics you want to read about? This is an open space! Say whatever is on your mind. :)

  • alison March 31, 2015 at 4:31 am

    I love your view on paying taxes…I’m a tax adviser and have worked in the industry over 10 years and have yet to come across this perspective on paying taxes! I like it :-)

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:45 am

      Haha, well it helps that I told myself all year it would probably happen. It was my first year making some decent freelance income, so it was a test of sorts, to see how investing/writing stuff off could offset the amount I would owe. I was actually really happy with this number! (But I think next year will look different… ha!)

  • Hayley March 31, 2015 at 4:42 am

    We are in a funny spot finance wise as I have become a stay at home mum through lack of part time work options. We are saving a little but generally just living a fairly frugal life and if I get contracts we will save that too. We are lucky that we set ourselves up pretty well before we had the baby so we are set for a few years of lower income so we can have the time we need with Her- however, I need to watch that the extra money goes to savings and doesn’t get wasted on frivolous items.

    I am going to do the odd but of part time work where possible and this will be saved too- our amazing goal is to he mortgage free one day! Whilst money is important and so is saving I will never get back these early days of my daughters life

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:53 am

      Re: your last sentence, I think that’s such a healthy attitude to have, Hayley! If you guys set yourselves up to have a few frugal years at home with her (which is all babies need, they don’t need “stuff”) then that’s all that matters. :)

  • Kate@GoodnightDebt March 31, 2015 at 5:30 am

    March was excellent because I paid off my student loans! Many woots! Now I’m interested to see where the money road takes me. Everyone has a different path.

    Work has been crazy this month and I totally forgot about the 30 Day Minimalist Challenge. There are a lot of great things on that list that I need to do. Thanks for the reminder!

    I’m interested to see how your May Budget works out. 90% traveling is so much traveling!

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:55 am

      Ahhh, that’s so exciting, Kate! I missed that. Will go read your post now!

      And yea, it’ll be interesting for sure. It really just means that life expenses will be bare bones (rent, insurances, etc.), travel will go way up and I still hope to save at least 25%. We’ll see!

  • Elizabeth March 31, 2015 at 7:24 am

    Thank you for sharing! I’m also debt-free and noticed that I was spending money just to spend it. Thanks to you and other blogs I’ve started cutting back my spending and going through all my stuff. I realized I have more books that I haven’t read than books I have read.
    I have a couple of financial goals I want to accomplish: I want to have a 6 month emergency fund (I’m halfway!), I want to start investing more money monthly (maybe 200 a month), and I eventually want to work part-time at my job! And I just got engaged so I’m trying to pay for my wedding with cash.
    Thanks for inspiring me girl! :) You’re giving me lots of ideas on how to accomplish these goals.

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      Thanks for sharing all your financial goals, Elizabeth! And congrats on having half of your emergency fund already saved up – that’s amazing! It sounds like you know exactly what you’re working towards, which is what will help you make it all happen. Keep going going going. :)

  • Emily March 31, 2015 at 7:25 am

    I’ve been quietly (read silently) following you for about a year now. I just wanted to thank you. It’s hard to find a perspective that actually relevant to my perspective and I have found your debt repayment journey inspirational.

    I think I’ll hold off on attempting a no-budget month. Not keeping a budget would be next to impossible for me, mostly because of outside pressures. My family thinks that I don’t spend enough money every month (despite my student loans and rather large transportation expenses), and often encourages me to spend. Having this blog refocus my energy on debt repayment has really helped my journey. All following the plan, I should be debt free in 3 months (It will have taken me 25 months to repay a total of $38, 265.20 on a take home pay of $33, 000/ year) Goodbye student and car loan!

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      EMILY! I am freaking out over those numbers. You are an inspiration! You should definitely stick to budgeting, especially during your debt repayment journey. It’ll help you stay on track, but then they will also serve as inspiration in your future debt-free life. I love looking back at some of mine and remembering how much I was able to stretch myself to make the numbers work. Go go go! I’m cheering for you. :D

  • Chela @SmashOdyssey March 31, 2015 at 7:29 am

    I’m kind of new to your blog, and love seeing budget updates. Thanks for sharing! I’m at the beginning of my financial journey, working hard to pay off debt, and saving some, too. :)

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      That’s fantastic, Chela! Any specific goals with dates/deadlines you’re working towards? :)

      • Chela @SmashOdyssey April 1, 2015 at 8:19 pm

        Well, it´s hard to say, exactly–because right now I´m the sole income earner (my husband is in school full time) but next year he should be earning income as well, so that should speed up our debt repayment considerably. I´m aiming to be rid of this $60k of debt no later than the end of 2017 (3 years total). I´m $6k down this year already, so I´m on the right track–but sometimes it´s hard to stay motivated. That´s why I love reading PFBlogs and being inspired by others´ journeys.

        • Cait Flanders April 2, 2015 at 6:39 am

          $6K in 3 months is amazing, Chela! If you can keep up that average, you’ll definitely be debt-free in 3 years. And think of how amazing it’ll feel to get that money back and have the freedom to make decisions about what to do with it after! I’m excited for you. :)

  • J. Money March 31, 2015 at 10:02 am

    You’re already doing something with that soon-to-be $2,500 – dreaming! That’s the best part of money stashed away like that (and the reason I haven’t locked in a goal for my $4,000’ish yet too) – thinking about all the cool possibilities for our hard earned money. It’ll only make us appreciate the final decision even more too – so go us!

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      You are so right, friend! Just dreaming away over here. My gut tells me I’ll use it towards a trip, but no destinations in mind yet. We’ll just see where the future takes us. :)

  • Dayle March 31, 2015 at 10:49 am


    March was awesome over in these parts!

    As you know, I sold my house, and moved, the deal closes on Thursday.

    Because of my tax return and some overtime I worked, I increased my net worth by 3% during the month.

    I tried hard to stick to my workouts but in the end I took 10 rest days in March, and I hope to get back to my normal routine in April.

    I read that book the Storied Life of AJ Fikry and loved it. I also read about 1/3 of Pound Foolish but I am not loving it so I may ditch it… I have Better than Before sitting on the night stand just WAITING to be read! haha

    Oh, and Spring has definitely not sprung here yet! It has been COLD, like -14 one day on the weekend (I think)… so here’s hoping April is warmer!!


    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      Whoa, that is freezing cold still! I’ll cross my fingers that a new month brings warmer temps to you guys.

      I wasn’t a huuuge fan of Pound Foolish either. I did read it all, but I dunno. I listened to a podcast with the author and found her really snooty. Not my jam.

      Congrats (again) on such a fantastic month, Dayle! Make sure you celebrate on Thursday. :)

  • Mrs. Marriage & Money March 31, 2015 at 11:32 am

    March was an awesome month for us, in large part due to our tax refund. We managed to put $650 towards debt, save almost $2,000, and learned more about individual retirement accounts. Hopefully April will be just as sweet, perhaps I’ll do a minimalist challenge this month!

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      Woo hoo! Talk about a great month, indeed. And yes yes yes, I can’t say enough good things about it! Although, now that I’m in the final stretch, I realize I’ve left some of the toughest ones for last… (like staying offline for an entire day!?)

  • Christina March 31, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve also been quietly following you for awhile now – ever since you were featured on LearnVest! Your journey through paying off debt really resonated with me as its something I’m going through now, and will most likely be tackling for a few years (but at least at the end of this year, it won’t be consumer debt anymore – just student loan debt).
    I also really really feel inspired by all your minimalism posts, so much so that my husband and I are going to be going through our home room-by-room and doing a deep clean and cosmetic updates, followed by only putting items back into the room that are used and necessary.
    What did you do with items you no longer needed? I know with clothes you mentioned you donated, which I’m glad to do – but I have a lot of craft stuff that I’ll never use again, and its perfectly good so tossing it seems like a big waste. Any suggestions for how to get rid of that stuff?

    • Emily March 31, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      I know that when I have decluttered in the past I have donated craft supplies to the local library. I’m sure that a school or preschool would also enjoy them.

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      First of all, congrats on almost being consumer debt-free, Christina! That’s wonderful. Make sure you celebrate that milestone, when you reach it. :)

      I donated almost everything, yes. I dropped most of my stuff off at either Value Village (and their profits go to a few charities) or directly in bins in my area that accept clothing/shoes/etc. I also took all the books I wanted to part with to my local library, where they would either put on their shelves or sell for $1 (fine by me!).

      I agree with Emily: I’d ask your library or reach out to your local school district. But also, is some of it good quality? Could you sell it? Lots of people are into crafting and would love to get stuff at a reduced price! Good luck!

  • Devan March 31, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Hi Cait, I discovered your blog via Becoming Minimalist and really enjoy your perspective and writing style. You’ve inspired me to try a shopping ban of my own, starting tomorrow April 1! I’m only doing a month to start, just so I won’t feel overwhelmed, but I’m sure even a short timeframe will be eye-opening. My personal rules for the next 30 days will be:

    1. No online shopping
    2. No takeout lunches
    3. No takeout coffee

    I hardly ever shop in brick and mortar stores, so that’s not a trigger for me, but shopping online is another story. For some, I know eating lunch out during the workday might not be considered “shopping” but that is an area where I really want to tighten up my spending, so I included it. I actually enjoy packing my lunch and relaxing during my lunch break, rather than scrambling for take-out, so it’s just a matter of getting organized and making lunch planning a priority – which I will focus on this month! And I just buy too much coffee, period. It’s time for a break.

    Thanks for the inspiration and for sharing your journey with all of us. I’m really excited to see what I’ll learn about myself this month and see how much money I won’t be spending!


    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      This totally made my day, Devan! I think everyone should try a 30-day shopping ban some time, and the plan + reasons you’ve outlined here show that you’re doing it for all the right reasons. It’s not just about saving money (which is a great bonus); it’s to learn about our triggers, figure out what our habits are and try to change some of them. I’m so excited for you! If you ever feel like shopping, shoot me an email ok? I’ll have your back. :)

  • Carla March 31, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    We’ve been frugal for years, paid off debts of $16k and are continuing to pay a mortgage, an investment property loan and have had an expensive surgery to pay for. No ‘bad’ debts still but I’m about to have our first baby and stop working. We have had to pare back even further, watching how much we spend on groceries for example, cutting back on small luxuries like takeaway coffee and magazines to meet our budget. We still are not quite hitting it and it scares me!

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      It sounds like you have all your numbers under control, Carla. Just curious if you track your spending? I wonder if there are any little cracks in your budget where money falls through, so to speak, that you don’t even think of. Or maybe there are some bills you could reduce (simply by calling and asking for better deals)? Just brainstorming over here…

  • allroundbetterme March 31, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    I am going to sort through my March numbers tonight or tomorrow night, so I won’t know exactly how my March budget worked out, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we went over budget… again…
    Well done on all your goals. I would definitely say that 14x working out is not a fail!
    I’m also thinking that sometime next month I might try out the 30 day minimalist challenge… right now I have a lot on my plate, so I want to keep it from getting too full.

    • Cait Flanders March 31, 2015 at 6:31 pm

      If I’d written a budget for this month, I would’ve gone over too! Try not to let that discourage you. Budgets are just a guide for what we hope to achieve. By writing them, you put these little goals in the back of your head, which become constant reminders to watch your spending or make sure you’re putting your money towards the right goals. The numbers start to work out eventually. :)

      And yes, take on the challenge whenever you’re ready. I’d even suggest just printing it off and trying one thing here and there, whenever you have the time! Each one has made me so much more mindful, even if the task was simple.

  • TheSimpleLife March 31, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Cait,

    I have also been following you for about a year or so, after learning about your blog through Tonya’s Budget and the Beach (your 2 blogs are my favourite)!!! Right now I am in the midst of paying off $31,000 worth of student LOCs and CC debt… I have paid off over $7000 since beginning of January by working a full-time job, part-time job, and going to school couple of nights a week (so by then I’m too exhausted to want to go out and spend money). My goal is to pay off another $20,000 by April 1st of next year… (should be doable, especially if I get my annual bonus next March)… I am also working on getting rid of excess clothes, not so much “stuff” as I’ve never been too keen on having too much stuff cluttering my space. I am also not going to go grocery shopping until I completely deplete all the stocked up food in the fridge, freezer, pantry. Also, no new make-up or clothes shopping for the rest of 2015. I only bought one pair of black work pants for my part-time job in 2015!

    I love your posts and writing, they are very down-to-earth and inspiring! Keep up the great work!


    • Cait Flanders April 1, 2015 at 6:36 am

      Lana, I’m freaking out over your numbers! You are crushing it! I feel like 2015 is going to be a huge year for you, especially in terms of how you’ll feel at the end: hopefully accomplished, proud, and motivated are at the top of the list. Love the idea of emptying out the contents of your pantry, but don’t restrict yourself from fresh fruit/veggies, if you need ’em. :)

      Thanks for commenting, and please keep me posted on how the no clothes/makeup challenge goes this year!

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods April 1, 2015 at 4:20 am

    As a fellow non-budgeter, I’m so happy to hear it worked out well for you! I seem to do best without a budget, because it causes me to think of every purchase as a debit against my future, as opposed to spending to meet a budget level. But I agree with you that it’s not for everyone–you’ve got to know yourself and your spending and be honest about what’ll work for you.

    • Cait Flanders April 1, 2015 at 6:44 am

      Yep, it’s definitely not for everyone. And I wouldn’t be comfortable not writing a budget and mapping out May, when I’ll be travelling so much. I just need to know all the numbers will work in that irregular situation! But for regular months? I’m going to keep rolling with this no budgeting thing…

  • susie April 1, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Since my husband and I follow the “Yours, Mine & Ours” financial mentality – I have two budgets to track. One for my personal money and one for the household expenses.

    I find that we derail rather quickly if we’re not following a budget. My husband has a more ‘laissez faire’ attitude towards budgets in general, so if I stop, it all stops. Haha

    However, if we stick to our budget, we’ll be mortgage free in 26 paycheques! (counting paycheques makes it seem closer!) Another goal (more like my goal) is to spend less on groceries and be more mindful of food waste. :)

    • Cait Flanders April 1, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      26 paycheques!!!!!!! <-- I hate multiple exclamation points but they were necessary there. That is incredible, Susie! Do you know what you're going to do with the extra money, once it's paid off?

      • susie April 2, 2015 at 9:22 am

        I’m very excited! Yes! We do know what we’re going to do.. we
        re going to save what we’re currently saving and use it for home renovations. Then after that: beef up the emergency fund (currently at $10k) then start aggressively contributing to our retirement savings. We may throw in a trip eventually.. since we still haven’t even gone on a honeymoon.. or an actual vacation for that matter and we’ve been together for 7 years. :)

  • Jess April 1, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    New reader here, really enjoying your blog! One thing on my mind is hobbies that require “stuff.” Have you addressed this before? I see many minimalists who spend a lot of time outdoors, which is awesome, but not everyone is so outdoorsy, you know?

    • Emily April 1, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      I would call myself a minimalist for the last few years now and this is actually something that friends ask me about quite frequently. It would be interesting to hear other perspectives, but it really comes down to your definition of minimalism. For me, minimalism isn’t about getting rid of ‘things’, it’s about getting rid of things that don’t add value to your life (whether it be time, people, or physical objects).

      Under my definition, if you enjoy a hobby that requires stuff (lets say you paint or quilt or scrapbook, whatever it is) then you need the tools to do that hobby. It’s adding value to your life. But if you have an unfinished scarf tucked into a closet that you were planning to give your sister three birthdays ago that you never finished, that’s not adding value to your life. That’s adding guilt. Minimalism is about making time and space for the things we love, not about getting rid of what we love.

      • Jess April 1, 2015 at 1:25 pm

        Thanks so much for your reply, Emily! I’ve been thinking about it, and I think there’s a secondary issue in my mind. I’ve only recently been reading about personal finance, and I feel more guilty about hobby spending now.

        Sounds like something I probably need to work through myself, doesn’t it?

        • Cait Flanders April 1, 2015 at 7:43 pm

          Emily’s response was perfect and so beautifully worded. (Thank you for helping Jess, Emily! <3) As for the hobby spending, I'd say that's definitely something you'll need to work through. Can I ask what the hobby is? For example, is it something where you'd use something once and could then possibly sell it after? Or are there ways you could delay spending, or just give yourself a certain amount to spend each month? You're allowed to spend money on yourself, or give yourself an allowance. If you're on an otherwise tight budget, it's really healthy to give yourself a little something, so you're not miserable.

          • Jess April 2, 2015 at 6:04 am

            Thanks for your thoughts, Cait! My hobby is these super awesome Blythe dolls ( – not my doll, but beautiful!). It’s a bit of a silly hobby for an adult, but they really brighten my day, especially when I’m having a tough time with my kiddos (SAHM of two here). And they do hold their value pretty well, if I were to sell them later.

            I think I need some work on a budget that includes a little allowance for myself – my family’s income has dropped significantly, but husband feels the drop is temporary, and so our budget hasn’t adjusted to the lower income. Part of feeling guilty I think is coming from not knowing quite where we’re at financially.

  • C@thesingledollar April 1, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    March was super rough for me — I barely had a net worth gain (just a couple of hundred dollars) after draining my travel savings account and reserves in order to pay for a bunch of travel. While it would be nice to still have that money around, I don’t regret too much of the spending; it’s really ok and I’ll work on stocking my savings accounts back up over the next couple of months. I’m glad March went well for you! I love your peaceful outlook on your life.

    • Cait Flanders April 1, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      Oh, I hate draining my savings… but it’s hard to feel guilty, when it’s spent travel! You’ll definitely built that back up again soon. Here’s to a new month, C!

  • Kristen April 3, 2015 at 6:17 am

    March was a “so-so” month for us. We had unexpected car expenses (Hubby blew a tire); I owe more in taxes than initially thought (we will be better prepared for next year – we do a salary and dividend structure for my pay – it does save us about $10 000 in taxes overall); it was property tax month; we also had some expenses for an upcoming trip. It made it a bit tough, but we will just some savings and take the lessons learned to be better prepared this time next year.

    On the success side – I brought down the spending on my dogs (that is my weakness); was able to replace an essential item in the wardrobe for about $13; we had lots of fun without spending hardly any money!

    Wishing you a very happy Easter!

  • Susanne April 8, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Love reading your posts! My budget is memorized/second nature but I still enjoy tweaking it little each month. Watching my savings inch up is nice too. Keep up the great work!