My monthly budget updates have changed shape many times over the years. For a long time, I shared my projected budget at the beginning of the month and my final numbers at the end. Last year, I trusted myself to spend the same amounts every month, stopped budgeting (but still tracked my spending) and shared only my final numbers. Then, after I quit my job and became a full-time freelancer, I started sharing my monthly income too.
For some reason, that last part has always bothered me – not sharing the numbers, but some of the responses that came with it. I started getting a lot of emails from people asking for advice on how to become a freelancer, how to work from home, etc. I don’t mind sharing what I know (which is nothing compared to what my friends Carrie and Paul can teach you), but I don’t want this space to turn into another “let me show you how to make money online” site. The people who do it already do it well and make a killing, so I’ll leave those topics to the experts.
What I will tell you is that I’ve been making a little bit less than the salary I had before, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been – and still surviving (nine months later)!
The first three months of 2016 have proven to be three of the best I’ve had in a long, long time. I feel like I managed to find a great balance between freelancing, working on creative projects and spending time with family/friends. I’ve also finally undergone the surgery I waited almost a year for, and have put a lot of my focus on the recovery process (which is going even better than I could’ve imagined!). Of course, all of this has impacted my budget in different ways each month. These three-month breakdowns are great, because it doesn’t look quite as bumpy as March was!
Q1 Budget Update
Life Expenses: 70%
Gone are the days of living off 50% of my income, I guess! No, that’s not entirely true… but with making a bit less than normal, it’s true that I’ve needed more of my income – especially in February/March. For starters, I had to buy a few things before surgery. Think: weird package of medical wipes I had to sterilize my body with the day before surgery, a rubber mat so I wouldn’t slip in the shower, a non-slip bath mat so I wouldn’t slip getting out of the shower (the things you have to worry about when you have hip surgery!), painkillers and a pair of shorts for physio (I didn’t own a single pair). I also spent close to $500 on physio and $100 on massage therapy in March – that’s more than half my rent! I’m now going to physio half as often, so I’ll be looking at closer to $380/month for the next few months… but that’s still a big chunk of my budget (and a big expense when you work for yourself).
I’m still living the frugal life, otherwise! Because I wasn’t allowed to drive for the first four weeks after the surgery, I didn’t need to pay for gas once in March. And I’ve continued to stick to the shopping ban, aside from those few things I needed post-op… oh, and a few things for my car, which I’ll list below. Without the therapies and the car expenses, I would’ve spent less than $1,900 in March.
While I haven’t been making as much as normal, I’ve still managed to set aside 22% of my Q1 income for retirement! A good chunk of that was a last-minute RRSP contribution (before the 2015 tax cut-off date) because I made a lot of money in 2015 and wanted to try to minimize the damage. I also made a smaller contribution to my TFSA investment fund with Tangerine.
Now, it wouldn’t be a proper budget update if I didn’t spend a little bit on travel, right? :)
Because the dollar has been so bad, I’ve kept all my travel local, so far this year. First, some friends and I rented a house on Galiano Island in February. We went for a couple hikes, explored some of the beaches and relaxed in our hot tub. It was the perfect getaway – and so cheap, compared to my usual adventures! Then I went up to Squamish for another mini getaway, two days before surgery. We went snowshoeing, took in my favourite views and woke up to the sunrise. I’m a tad obsessed with Squamish, at the moment… am heading back up for a few nights next week and can’t wait!
Anyway, all things considered, I’m happy with these numbers. I expect life expenses to go down slightly in Q2, now that I can go to physio once/week vs. twice/week. But I’m also itchinggggg to travel, so the numbers may just jump down to that category. We’ll see.
Q1 Shopping Ban Update
Now, here’s a topic I haven’t touched in a while… remember that two-year shopping ban I’m still in the midst of!? Haha. I haven’t thought about it in a while, because there’s nothing to think about at this point. I’m still happy to only buy the essentials as I need them, and that wasn’t much in a three-month period of time. Here’s what I bought in January, February and March.
- Medical wipes
- Gauze tape
- Shower mat
- Bath mat
- Shorts (at physiotherapist’s request)
- 2 x Toothbrush heads (I use an electric toothbrush)
- Toilet paper
- Epsom salts
- Dish soap (I’ve given up on the idea of making it)
- Laundry detergent (ditto)
- 2 x Oil filters
- Air filter
- Car battery (after 7 years, mine finally died)
Remember: I’m tracking all of these things, so I can create a spreadsheet that shows what one person used in a year – and looking back at everything I’ve purchased so far, I can tell you it’s going to be a fairly short list! I’m close to running out of shampoo and conditioner, and am on my last razor, so I’ll be buying a few things in Q2… but that’s it. There are only three months to go, then I’m done!
Q1 Goals Update
Finally, I decided that rather than set annual goals for 2016, I was going to set goals in 90-day increments – or really, quarterly goals! Here’s how I did in Q1:
Business: Create/use/maintain weekly and monthly task sheets for all clients and blogs. – PASS! I originally setup tasks in Asana, so I’d remember them all, but now it’s all second nature. :)
Money (2): Separate my business and personal finances (PASS!), and file my taxes (FAIL!). I opened up a checking account in the US so all my USD-paying clients can deposit money there, and started using separate credit cards for business and personal expenses. I also compiled everything for my taxes and sent it to my accountant, but we haven’t filed yet.
Health: Schedule workouts so I’m active 4x/week, with a focus on strengthening my lower back/hip before surgery. – PASS, I think!? When I set this goal, I didn’t know my surgery was going to be in February. I thought the earliest it would be was April, but February was a good surprise! I’m glad it’s over and done with. I hiked A LOT before the surgery, and am already fairly active now 6 weeks post-op. I’d say I do one thing every day, whether it’s go to the gym or just go for a 30-minute walk. So… maybe I’m actually dominating this goal!
Personal (2): Take a pottery class (FAIL!) and read 12 books (FAIL!) But it’s not an epic fail. I had to drop the pottery class, after I got my surgery date, because I would’ve missed half the classes post-op. And I didn’t read 12 books, but I did read 8 (and am just about done a ninth!).
The other exciting goal that I didn’t include in that list was launch the Budgets and Cents podcast with Carrie, which we did! If you haven’t listened yet, there are 12 episodes ready and waiting for you. :)
All-in-all, I couldn’t be happier with how the first three months of 2016 turned out. It was a lot more personal than business-focused, but I’m a firm believer that we have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else (including clients).
I haven’t finalized my goals for Q2 yet, as a few things are up in the air, but I’ll still be trying to read 1 book/week and doing something active every day.
How have your budgets looked lately? I’d especially love to hear from people using the Mindful Budgeting 2016 Planner!