August 2015 Budget & Shopping Ban Update

Last month, I chose not to work much mid-month, so I could travel and spend time with a friend in need. As a result, I only invoiced for $4,773, which left me with no extra money to save for retirement or personal goals. I shouldn’t say “only” – I know that’s almost $5,000 of real money. But when I decided to become a full-time freelancer, I knew I wanted to try to earn at least $6,100/month (before taxes) so I could bring home the same amount of money I was earning before I quit; this month, I did just that.

August Budget

Before I get to the numbers, a few of you have asked me what I do as a freelancer, so I thought I would break down this month’s income by the different services I offer.


First and foremost, I write (and edit, which I forgot to put in the legend). Currently, I only have two clients I write/edit for, and they made up 21% + 24% of my income this month. Besides writing, I also do some blog and community management, which made up 10% of my income. I also have experience with some of the most widely-used learning management systems out there, and help put together online courses in them. A portion of my income comes from sales of the Mindful Budgeting Program. And then “other” includes any random one-off assignments I take on.

In total, I invoiced (and was fully paid up) for $6,226 – $2,180 (35%) of which was set aside for taxes. Here’s what I did with the leftover $4,046.

Life Expenses – $2,365 (58%)

Just a reminder that “life” expenses includes all my regular living expenses, like rent, food, gas and all my insurance policies, as well as donations and gifts for others. My expenses in some of these categories were higher than I expected – and it was my own fault for not budgeting properly. For example, I was in my best friends’ wedding last weekend and forgot to budget for my hair. Gift: yes. Hair: totally blanked. I don’t know how I forgot that… but my budget is glad wedding season is over. ;)

I also took advantage of one of my new shopping ban rules, which is to “buy” products/services my friends sell so I can support their businesses, and then donate the same amount of money to a charity of their choice. First, I bought Amanda’s book and made a donation to her friend’s charity. Then I bought a seat in Paul and Jason’s workshop and made a donation to the Victoria BC SPCA – a cause I already donate to monthly and which Paul loves too.

Travel – $681 (17%)

I didn’t travel at all this month, but I did book and pay for my flight to Charlotte, NC. I’m flying out on September 16th for my fourth FinCon! Will I see you there!? :)

Savings – $1,000 (25%)

And finally, the best thing that’s happened to my budget since I quit my job: I saved money! And for retirement, no less! I’m used to saving more than this, so I’m not entirely happy with the number, but it’s a huge step up from last month. Since I’m travelling a little bit in September and October, this number will likely be similar in those months… but that is now serving as motivation to take on more work, so I can save even more.

Shopping Ban Update

Now that we’ve looked at the numbers, it’s time to give you a shopping ban update. I’m just about to finish the 14th month of my 24-month shopping ban, and this one went on a lot smoother than the last. I didn’t feel the urge to shop much, and I finally started to read more of the books I already own. As I mentioned above, it was also nice to support two of my friends who are full-time freelancers, and I’m grateful the ban allows for that now.

Of course, the “real” reason I’m doing the shopping ban for a second year is to track every single item I do buy, so I can show you what an average (female) consumer might need in a year. Last month, I purchased 4 things, 2 of which were definitely female-specific. This month, I purchased 5 things. Again, 2 of them were female-specific, but all of them were toiletries and could potentially last me until the end of 2015. (The toothpaste will be an interesting experiment, as I truly have no idea how long a tube lasts.)

Items I purchased in August 2015:

  1. 1 box of razors (should last 3-4 months)
  2. 2 boxes of toothpaste (on sale for the same price as 1 box)
  3. 1 bag of epsom salts
  4. 1 DivaCup
  5. 1 mascara

All-in-all, it was a fairly good month – a little more “spendy” than I’d like, but that should change this fall. Now, the real challenge: I still haven’t gone through those last three boxes, and today is the last day of my final declutter! If you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do. :)

How did your month finish up!?

  • Wow! That’s so amazing that you’re down to three boxes. I admire the hard work and dedication you put into decluttering and minimizing. I’m not sure I’ll ever get that far, but it’s been inspiring to read your journey. Congratulations on a successful month as a freelancer, and thanks for the reminder that it’s OK to pause from work if there are things that take precedence – like helping someone in need.

  • I’ve been a long time reader but never comment. Your shopping ban is so inspiring &
    I am thinking of starting one tomorrow. My biggest challenge is having a 14 yr old. I may allow one fun family trip for the month like a trip to the movies. Still struggling with this a bit. I’m super disciplined but he will be a challenge.

    • That sounds like a good compromise, Catina! I still budget for a little bit of entertainment (might go to 2-3 concerts/year). Maybe you can also plan for pizza/movie nights at home. Can’t wait to hear more about your ban! Good luck :)

  • Well Cait, you better not delay and get to those 3 boxes but, what with all your previous de-cluttering activities, I’m thinking that (like the other 5 boxes that you recently looked through) you’ll likely keep most of what’s inside of them! :-)

    As to how August has finished up, well since there still is today to get through (and potentially “millions” to spend / save before it’s over), I’ll have to let you know the final result tomorrow! :-)

    From a quick peek at my budget vs actual line items – incomes & expenses, which I update daily as required, I would guess that I’m practically on target overall. Investment-wise, yes (like yourself) I took a small overall 4% hit from recent market turbulence but also (like yourself) over half of that loss has now been recouped and I expect the upward trend to continue over the next month as the market correction settles down. So, all in all, it was a “don’t sweat the small stuff” month! :-)

    • Haha, yep… I didn’t get rid of much. And I know, I was early this month, but also knew I’d be staying home working all day (as you do on the last day of any month when you’re self-employed!). Glad to hear you had a good month, despite the 4% hit!

  • Just a tip to make your razors last longer, make sure you dry them after every use and better to not to keep them in the shower when you don’t plan on using it. Leaving a razor wet is what makes them wear down because of rust than forms. August was a pretty average month for our spending, no unexpected surprises. I am going to FinCon but won a scholarship and was able to travel hack my way there for free!

  • Sounds like freelancing is going really well for you! I haven’t run the final numbers for August just yet, but I think I will have done well on the savings front. The new worth front, however, is going to be in bad shape after all the market volatility this month. Oh well, nothing to do about that!

    • Ack, yes, same here. Considering I didn’t save anything in July and my investments went down by a little more than the amount I saved, I’m basically at a standstill right now, lol. Oh well. Short-term pain for long-term gain. :)

  • I enjoy the depiction of your freelance breakdown! It’s amazing how versatile you can be once you start working on your own. I definitely can say I do not experience that much variety in my daily work tasks. Very interested to hear about what’s in your last 3 boxes and the final day of your declutter! All in all, August actually did not shape up to be as bad as I anticipated! Now, I’m incredibly pumped for the start of September and really mapping out a different plan because my fiance & I will be saving even more with our living expenses.

    • Awesome! I’m excited to hear how September is for you guys, then. And I didn’t get rid of much from those boxes… no surprise there. ;)

  • To spread out my travel expenses over time, I put away ~ $250 per month in a separate travel savings account and call it an expense for that month (even though it’s in savings and I haven’t spent it yet). Then when I take money out of that account for travel, I don’t count it as an expense. That fund doesn’t necessarily cover all of my travel expenses but it spreads them over time. That way, when I book travel or go on a trip, my budget and monthly personal savings rate isn’t completely thrown out of whack! It works well for me!

    • Yes, that’s a great idea, Elizabeth! I just happen to travel most months, so there’s no point “saving” since it’s just a regular expense for me, at this point.

  • OK this is weird but I totally had to google what the hell a diva cup was. :) OK wow, you learn something new every day! Weddings can get so expensive. There are so many little details that are easy to forget about, especially if you are in the wedding!

    • Haha, I wasn’t sure about it either – but SO many women have left comments here over the past two months telling me how fantastic they are. So, I figured I’d give it a shot. And yes… I can’t lie, that’s the last wedding in the works amongst my group of friends, and I extremely grateful to have a break from it all. I don’t know of ANY being planned right now – not even for next year – and my budget is happy about that!

  • Great August! I am looking forward to fall and slowing down. September is still busy but I am hoping to try and take some weekends/nights for some me time and some “us” time with the fiance.

    I am going to write an approved shopping list and rules for eating out tonight. I think as of September 1st I will try and curb my spending in an effort to just not spend/consume as much and to save a little extra cash. I watched the “true cost” documentary last night and truly felt horrible about how much I buy and the social/environmental impact.

    Good luck with September!

    • I keep hearing about that doc. Should I check it out, L? Might be something good to watch on rainy day (we are having many of them now). Look forward to hearing what your rules are!

      • It was hard to watch at times but I think it is something you would enjoy since you are trying to be a more continuous consumer. As for the rules, no new clothes (outside of an approved list for our Japan/Australia trip in Jan, and new boots I need), no eating out for lunch at work, and eat out to supper only once/month.

  • I’ve been inspired to do a shopping ban, think I’ll do it month on month until I get to grips with it. I’ll also keep all my receipts so I can see where my money goes and how much I spend and how much I have left to save. Thanks for the inspiration to change my relationship with money. 😊

    • Thank YOU for sharing your plans here, Ann! Please come back and let us know how you’re doing each month. :)

  • Glad that freelancing is going well for you! And your chart looks a lot like people’s diversified asset allocation — even your income is diversified. ;-) Enjoying the shopping ban updates — it’s great to reflect on what we really need vs. just want or get into the habit of buying, and I’m excited to see what your full year list looks like. I bet it will be shockingly short, which will be good and mind-blowing for everyone. Hope your week is off to a great start!

    • Haha, I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re right! Week is off to a great start, thanks! Hope the same for you guys. :)

  • I’ve been following you for a long time and I just had to comment to say I’m so glad you’re trying a diva cup! It changed my life! That being said there is definitely a steep learning curve, and it takes time to adjust. D efinitely try to stick with it for the first few months and you’ll really see the benefits. :)

    • Yes, so many women have left comments here praising it, so I figured it was worth a shot. And that’s good to know! Thanks for the warning, Lauren!

  • Congrats Cait! You’re officially living the dream! Well done. I actually got rid of three bags of stuff and threw them immediately into the closet for donation. Then I didn’t want to look at them or take them out to take a picture, so I didn’t tag the challenge. But I made some good progress!

    • That’s awesome! Glad to hear it, Maggie. Now make sure you get them out of the closet and actually donate them. ;)

  • You’ll have to give us an update on the Diva cup. I have friends who swear by it, but I work in an office with a shared (public) bathroom, & there’s NO WAY I would be able to rinse/clean it in a public venue. I’d imagine it’s much easier to maintain for someone working from home or with a private bathroom.

    • I only just tried it this month (based on comments on Cait’s shopping ban blog post) and loved it – was happy that my first month was at home though, since it happened to follow during a week off. But definitely lasts beyond regular working hours, so you could deal with it just before and just after work and would be completely fine.

    • Hi Beth,
      I work in an office, and I hardly have to rinse it at work, since you only have to do it once a day, or every 12 hours! it happened a few times i rinsed it at work, i just brought my bottle of water in and cleansed my hands with paper towel i had brought before. A thourough wash of your hands afterwards and you’re set! i travel a few times a year and I couldn’t live without my diva cup (or ruby cup). it’s the best!

        • Absolutely!! I do cardio kickboxing, hockey, figure skating, volleyball, etc. I’ve been using a Ruby Cup for 4 years and there is NO WAY I will ever go back. It’s actually pretty similar to using a tampon (instead of absorbing it’s collecting) but I think it’s cleaner and so much more convenient.

    • This is the exact same reason I haven’t tried one. I just can’t image the mess/embarrassment of trying to keep in clean in a public setting. Plus since my baby, I’m using a box of “three month supply!” each period (both pads AND tampons!) so I’d probably have to been in there to change it every few hours.

  • Way to go, Cait! What an awesome post. Do you track your hours? I’m wondering if you’re working more or less now that you’re freelancing. I think I work the same number of hours as I did when I had an employer, but it looks different – rather than 8 hours a day Monday – Friday, some days are 12 hours and some are 3 and sometimes I work weekends, if I feel like taking a weekday off. That said, I have 220 billable hours scheduled for September and while I’m thrilled about each exciting project, it’s also a lot of work! But in the grand scheme of things, what’s one very busy month in a lifetime of work?

    • You know, I’m not great at tracking my hours… I have to for one client, but the others are project-based (e.g. 1 blog post = $$, etc.) so I don’t. But I keep thinking about it. Maybe I’ll challenge myself to do that in Sept!?

  • Great update, Cait.
    I have a very fixed income due to retirement, and physical challenges which make it improbable for me to make additional money each month. Still, I do a few things which add $40 here, or %50 there, and keep me in printer ink and paper!
    I have completed my goals for the month – just finishing up my desk clean out.
    From having moved many times into small basement suites, I have purged clothing every season, and simply need to do the “usual” purge now that it’s almost sweater weather.
    Next task is to re-organize my bureau drawers – there are likely a few things I can toss.
    And the next job is to go through every file in my 2-drawer filing cabinet. I did this about 4 years ago, and it’s definitely time to do it again.
    I’m good at not spending – poverty helps there! :) But I can pinch more here and there. I’ve started doing “salads in a jar” – making 5 or 6 big salads into big jars (1kg peanut bar jars) so I can simply reach for a salad that is already chopped up and ready to eat. And I’ve been making chili and various lentil dishes, freezing them in 1-2 serving sizes. My small chest freezer is a godsend for things like that. Last night I used up the last of my fruits and made 2 cobblers, and froze all but 2 servings. A treat!
    This is definitely more enjoyable than I thought it would be… I thought I’d done all the purging and tossing that I could do. But there are definitely improvements I can make in several areas.
    Cheers to you for being an inspiration in so many ways, just by making one decision…

    • Mmm, a homemade fruit cobbler sounds amazing right now, Celia. Do you have any recipes you can share? Good luck with the next decluttering/organizing tasks around the house! Here’s to a new and tidier month. :)

  • Hi Cait! I just recently found your blog and I really like reading about your shopping ban. I’ve done a 2 year shopping ban before too, and just started another ban last week! Although this time I don’t think it will be 2 years, but who knows. Last weekend I went through my entire apartment to declutter and now there’s a big pile of stuff on my floor that I have to get rid of asap before I change my mind! I have to go through it next weekend to figure out what I will sell, donate, and toss. Then this weekend I plan to sit down and write up my approved shopping list and some guidelines for myself to follow. It will be nice to read your blog as I’m doing the shopping ban also. Hopefully it will help keep me on track! :-)

    • Oh, I hope the blog helps you stay on track, Heather! I’m also setting up forums this week, for anyone who wants to share their rules and connect with other people doing shopping bans. :)

  • It’s always neat to see the income statement of a freelancer! In truth, I had no idea about the world of freelancing until recently so thanks for sharing. I also think it’s cool that you support your friends as an exception to the no shopping ban (I have NOTHING to sell here, lol). I just know that I would personally have to make an exception as well.

    • Yea, I didn’t buy a few friends’ e-books last year, because the ban didn’t allow for it… but that just seemed crazy. I’m supporting a friend, not buying tons of random things that are going to take up space in my home and never be used.

  • I started a shopping ban of sorts last month and also started a year long declutter journey. I also like the idea of tracking things that I do buy (that are not food) and it is very interesting. You’re definitely very inspirational in wanting to live a more minimalistic life.

  • Yaaa Cait! Diva Cups are where it’s at. I should be a spokeslady for them.

    This month was pretty good for me. I put 43% of my income on my debt and now it’s under $5,000! Yay. Another win was that I walked more than usual and only spent $11 on TTC.

    I love that you’re making an effort to support your friends AND a charity of their choice. That’s so cool.

  • When you are boss of yourself you are freedom to choose to work mid month and take holiday but I uderstand when you say that you need to earn a determinated income, however now is September so new month and new plan and adventures start, I’m sure you’ll do a great work as
    usual …wedding can be really expensive and seriously I’m so glad this year I haven’t one

    • Yes, as much as I love weddings, my budget doesn’t love them… I’m glad your budget hasn’t had a wedding this year, too! ;)

  • August ended for me with a lot of inspiration! I have a to-do list started with things to have accomplished by the end of September.

    #1 Get rid of a lot of CRAP in my house(my husband will be happy, even he has been complaining lately, lol) All of that clutter is causing chaos in me head! Thanks for being such a great example Cait. Although I’m keeping my books. I purged those a while ago and just kept my favourites which include Stephen King and Sue Grafton. I have Sue’s latest book “X” coming in the mail, personally autographed and all!!

    #2 Set a schedule and try and stick to it. I have a lot of free time and spend too much of it “scrolling.” I watched Tiffany Han’s Creative Live class last week called “Social Media Sanity” and it was a real eye opener for me.

    #3 Come up with a name for my BLOG!! (GULP) and get the website underway.

    #4 Practice my photography more.

    Cait, $6100 a month!!! You are awesome!! I make around $1600 a month. Luckily my husband makes more. LOL I really need to try and make a bit more money though. My Canada Post position is only 21 hours a week. I work out of the basement in my house in a rural area. With all the cutbacks lately, who knows, I could get shut down anytime.

    Ok, so I’m rambling again. I really need to get my blog started so I can ramble to the world. LOL Thanks again for your inspiration Cait, and keep up the great work!!

  • Hi Cait,

    Wow, you are so inspiring. I feel overwhelmed sometimes, which takes away from the important things I need to focus on. Thinking constantly about things I have to do at home, declutter (which I desperately need to do), try and clean up the debt that I do have (need to stay away from the temptation though). As for the decluttering, I am not sure where to start actually. I have so much “stuff”, clothing (coats/boots/shoes), tons and tons of toys. Friends and family have offered to help but I do not want to drag them in to my “mess”. Hoping you can give me some idea of what I can do to get underway.

  • I just started reading your blog last week and I LOVE IT! I’m working on living a minimalist life and paying off my debt. Noticed you are in Charlotte NOW, which is where I live! If you need any recs on places to go, let me know. If you have free time, def check out the National Whitewater Center =] Welcome to the Queen City!

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