Update: December Budget + How Much I Spent in 2014


We’re in the final hours of 2014, and I have to admit: I’m very much looking forward to a new year. It feels cliche to say that December was the most stressful month for my finances this year, but it’s true. From travelling for 22 days of the month, to losing my debit and credit cards in Toronto, to buying last-minute Christmas gifts and then having to pay for some other unexpected costs, money just seemed to fly out of my hands… and my mind was all over the place.

The only good news is that my CPP finally capped, so my paycheques were more than I’d expected them to be; this brought my percentages down, which is always nice to see. Unfortunately, I had to cut back on my savings goals, in order to pay for one big expense mid-month…

Life Expenses – Goal: 48% / Actual: 41% / Difference: -7%

I was under budget in a number of categories here, but one went right down to $0, when the amount for my new life and critical illness insurance policies wasn’t withdrawn from my chequing account. Apparently, until I get the results of my MRI (in January), the insurance company won’t approve my application for coverage. What my hip injury has to do with early death is beyond me… but I now have to wait until next month to know if I can get coverage (and for the same amounts that were quoted). I tell you, this car accident is seriously cramping my style. Anyway, because of my bigger paycheques, I was able to live off 41% of my income… so that’s cool, I guess.

Travel – Goal: 29% / Actual: 28% / Difference -1%

As I said, I spent 22 days away from home this month: 5 in NYC, 5 in Toronto and 12 in Victoria. I spent more in NYC than I’d budgeted for, but was able to stay on track otherwise.

Savings – Goal: 23% / Actual: 10% / Difference: -13%

This makes me sad, but there was no way around it. I put 10% of my income into my RRSPs, then transferred a couple Tangerine referral bonuses into my Shopping Ban account (currently at $900).

Other – Goal: 0% / Actual: 21% / Difference: +21%

Last month, one of my docs told me I needed to get an MRI, so we can figure out what’s really going on inside my hip and see if I need surgery. A few weeks ago, the hospital called with my appointment: October 20, 2015. After dealing with this injury for 17 months already, I wasn’t willing to wait another year (especially because surgery would come with a waitlist of its own). So, it wasn’t cheap, but I booked and paid for a hip arthrogram + private MRI. It cost $900, and I had to pay for it with cash, because my appointment was during the time I’d lost my cards. Anyway, money well spent, I suppose. And I’ll have my results in a few weeks, so we can come up with a game plan soon.

Goals for this month:

  • Read 2 books – FAIL! I started a few and didn’t finish a single one.
  • Workout 12x – FAIL! I only worked out 7x. But I walked a lot in NYC. Does that count? lol
  • Finish a personal writing project – PASS!
  • Map out goals for 2015 – PASS!
  • Soak up all my time in NYC/Toronto/Victoria – PASS!

How Much I Spent in 2014

Now, just for fun, I went through all my budgets and added up how much I spent on various categories this year. For starters, I paid $13,200 in rent (I live alone and pay $1,100/month). To get around town, I spent $1,762.29 on car insurance and $1,095.04 on gas. When I worked at my old co-working space, I spent an average of $104.57/month on gas. I’ve been working from home since August, and now only spend an average of $72.61/month. So, the decision to work from home has saved me 1 tank of gas + $50-75 in parking fees each month.

As for my more variable expenses, I spent $2,502.68 on groceries and $1,366.71 at restaurants (including coffee shops). Here’s some interesting numbers, though. From January-June, I spent an average of $144.56/month at restaurants. Since starting the shopping ban (and takeout coffee ban), that number has gone down to $83.22/month, which means I’ve cut my restaurant spending by 42%! But then my grocery spending went up by 9% (probably so I could buy more delicious homemade coffee ingredients). Between the two, I cut my food budget by 33%, which is great.

As for entertainment, one year of Netflix cost me $95.88, which is just another (more visual) reminder that life is better without cable. I also spent $722.87 for internet. We already know I spent $3,599.08 on weddings, which should be cut in half in 2015, as I’m only in 1 wedding (so far, hehe). Now for the biggest entertainment cost of all… I spent $7,445.76 on travel this year; that number includes all flights, hotels, transportation and food costs, as well as travel insurance and my new 10-year passport. I’m actually surprised it wasn’t more, considering all the places I went!

Fortunately, the final and most important numbers are pretty great: I saved $11,200 between my Emergency Fund and RRSPs, as well as put $1,700 in my Shopping Ban account (nearly $800 of which I used to buy a new bed). I also had my pension transferred into my personal RRSPs, and my small investments made $1,844.12. Not a bad year, overall, I’d say.

One final number I want to mention is about you! More than 180,000 unique visitors came to the site in 2014, which is a 149% increase from 2013. (Not surprisingly, my pageviews also saw a 149% increase.) Two years ago, I seriously considered shutting down the blog after making my final debt repayment, because I didn’t think anyone would want to read about life after debt. As it’s turned out, there’s so much more to do, learn and say… and I just wanted to thank you all for following along with me, and for being part of our community. I love reading your comments, emails and tweets, and can’t wait to see what we chat about in 2015! Happy New Year, friends. xo

If you’re still reading this recap, tell me how December finished up for you! Any crazy numbers you want to share?

  • That’s a crazy number of unique visitors this year! And a 149% increase – wow! No matter the effect on your savings, making the decision to pay for a private MRI was totally the right one, and hopefully you’ll get some answers on that hip soon!

    • Yes, it was tough to hand over that amount of cash, but health should always be a top priority… so here’s hoping it gives me some answers!

  • Looking at it, I’d say it’s been a great year.
    Congrats on your savings goals and blog numbers. I just discovered your blog late this year, but I am a fan already. Thanks for sharing all these great and inspiring stories with us!
    As overspending in NYC, I totally understand. That place is amazing (to visit) and awful (to spend) :)
    Oh, and I hope your hip/assurance problems will all be gone by the beginning of the year.
    Have yourself a wonderful 2015!

  • “Not a bad year, overall, I’d say”

    I would certainly say so, Cait – congratulations!!! And I’m sure that it will only get better for you in 2015.
    I haven’t finished tabulating my month / yearend numbers yet but I expect that they will be favourable. Investment wise, things are chugging along well for us, despite the usual market ups and downs. Hopefully this pattern will continue in 2015 although, from what I read and observe, it might get a tad scary for some rather over-extended folks out there.

    So generally, things are finishing up well financially this yearend but, as I’ve said in the past, life isn’t about just money as good health is important as well. And rather than expand on that thought with personal details, I’ll just leave it at that.

    And so Cait, here’s wishing a very Happy New Year to you and your family and I look forward to reading more of your blog adventures and thoughts in 2015.

  • I hope the MRI brings you some answers. I had to pay out of pocket last year for an MRI on my shoulder and then it turned out to be nothing they could “see.” Thankfully the shoulder is better now. My grocery budget is something I really need to work hard on next year. I spend what seems like an awful lot for just one person! Hope 2015 is a great year for you!

    • Yea, I don’t really know what to expect w/ the results. It’ll either be “you have a tear and need surgery” or “we don’t know what’s wrong with you”. Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

      Also, don’t compare your grocery budget. You workout like a boss, so you need more calories than the average person! And I’m curious: do you include things like protein powders, running gels, etc. in your budget? (I don’t even know if you consume those, just asking.) If so, I think I’d separate that into a running budget (or maybe a #pfworkout budget!?) or just own the fact that they’re part of your grocery budget. Just random thoughts, over here!

      Happy New Year, friend. Can’t wait to see what 2015 holds for us both.

  • Congratulations on a great year!

    I live in Massachusetts USA and have some family in Canada and you often hear a lot of folks here complaining about healthcare and wanting a system like in Canada however I must say I feel quite appreciative that I had my MRI fully paid for and with no wait. Yet Canada is smarter in that they don’t allow a lot of unhealthy chemicals in food product like our country does because they are often way too money obsessed here!

    I’ll make you feel MUCH better about your gas expense. My husband spends over $600.00 a month in gas, another $450 in car payments and then insurance on top of that. He is a self-employed musician and he plays piano for independent living facilities (retirement communities) for the elderly. He usually ends up deducting about $18,000 in mileage expenses alone!

    I’ve been on SSDI for health issues and I’m getting better so I hope to begin working this year from home life coaching ( I used to have my own private practice in psychotherapy for several years) by phone/computer and we are also starting a healing/wellness and music for relaxation site in 2015. I’m hard at work on the website now. Even getting only $1,031.00 a month I was able to save almost $8,000.00 myself by having my husband pay all the living expenses and I shopped at thrift stores and didn’t get my hair done or any other “girly” things this past year.

    However, we have NO retirement saving yet and that’s going to be our priority for next year, along with my husband getting some life insurance too.

    I’ve appreciated all of your posts because I think younger folks need to learn this all the earlier the better!! I’m 45 and although most folks think I’m ten years younger and I often forget my chronological age, mostly because I didn’t follow the “usual” path for my age as years passed…even getting a late start, it’s better than not at all.

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to more of your posts in 2015. May it be your most successful year yet!!


    • Thanks for sharing your experiences, Michelle! I always appreciate people’s ability to be open and honest here. Cheers to a good year for us both!

  • Well done Cait,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it, I like seeing were all the money was spent throughout the year. For Christmas we had family visiting and noticed I spent A LOT of money taking them out. The little finance voice in my head always screamed when I whipped out my credit card to pay but my family comes from humble financial means and I know that the experiences we give them are worth it. It’s just a little painful seeing the total in my credit card bill. Yikes! :)

  • Those are impressive numbers I wish we could spend so little on gas, but in the New Year I will be working at home 2 days so that will help.

    I don’t have numbers the way you do (plan is to have them for 2015) but we did spend about $9000 on a single trip this year. 16 days, best trip of our lives. I am happy to say we saved the money so there is no debt from it!

    Enjoy your New Year’s Eve!

  • That’s an amazing year — aside from the ongoing hip trouble :( I hope that MRI shows what’s going on.

    As for the financial and blog stuff, go you! Huge progress on both the site and your savings/investments. Congratulations on both. I’ve loved reading your blog this year and I look forward to more in 2015.

  • I love reading your “finances in a year” post! Happy New Year! And PS, thanks for not shutting down the blog! Your blog inspires me in my debt-free journey!

  • Congratulations on a successful year of savings and your progress on the blog is amazing! Walking around NYC totally counts as exercise. You probably hit 10,000 steps on the majority of the days that you were there. I miss living in a walkable city *sigh*. Happy New Year!

  • Congrats on an amazing year, Cait! It’s fabulous you were able to travel so much–that’s one thing we didn’t do much of in 2014 that I wish we had. Weddings are slowing down for us in 2015 too, which is a good thing for our budget (though I do love weddings!). I hope you have a fabulous start to the new year!

    • How many weddings do you have this year (that you know of so far)? Any you have to travel for?

      • So far just one (a family member), which we will need to travel for. It’s interesting–we had a sort of wedding boom with our friends the last few years and then no one is getting married this year. Kind of too bad because I love a wedding :)

  • You had some wonderful results this year! I’m jealous! :)

    My 2014 wrap-up won’t be nearly as exciting as yours because I didn’t start tracking everything faithfully until September, but I’m eager to look at all the details soon and post about it all!

    Happy 2015!

    • Tracking for 4 months is still awesome, K! And that’s the perfect amount of time to find averages for all categories and write a budget. :)

  • I’m amazed (though not surprised) that your highest numbers are savings :) You are a rockstar my friend! Those blog numbers prove it ;)

  • I’m impressed you saved so much on gas working at home. You must plan your trips very well. Thanks for sharing and inspiring!

    I took a huge chunk from my debt, almost $30,000 via putting half my income, all “bonus money”, and profits from selling many clothes on debt. As I have $35,000 to go, I’m doing my best to ignore the “you could have done better demons” and celebrate my sucess. It was so hard! I’m going to slow it down (and hopefully calm down) for balance in 2015

    • Truthfully, I just don’t drive very much during the week! I live in a little village that has everything I need (groceries, bank, etc.) and then the library is only a 5-min walk away. So I only drive if I’m meeting friends, going to appointments, etc. Some days, my car never leaves its spot.

      Definitely ignore those demons – that is a HUGE number you knocked off, Leigh! Cheers to finding balance in 2015… but keep kicking butt. ;)

  • 160,000 unique visitors is pretty impressive Cait! My workout goals always seem to be the hardest for me to reach as well… Maybe there are some fitness bloggers out there who never quite hit their savings goals or something!

  • What a great year! I can’t wait to see what’s coming up for you. Glad you didn’t shut down the blog when you finished paying your debt :) I love reading about what you’re up to, and it motivates me to stay on track and live more frugally myself.

    • Glad to hear that, J! I’m happy I didn’t shut it down too, because this place gives me so much room to write, grow and share. More more more in 2015. :)

  • 2014 was a crazy year for us. The income was about 70% of the previous year (my business, husband’s business actually started bringing in some nice income in the past 4 months) and the expenses were high: birth, stem cells, all the stuff baby needs etc. Anyway .. we managed to pay for everything so we’re OK. Hope 2015 will be even better :)

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