Ahhhhhhh… <– that’s the sigh of relief I let out, as I sat down to write this. September felt like one of the longest and shortest months of this entire year; short because it flew by, long because it seemed like all I did was work. Whenever a friend asked what I was doing, I usually said “working” to which they often replied “do you ever take a day off!?” I don’t like feeling that busy, but I hustled this month for a reason – and it was about more than just making money. I’ll explain more on Monday, but for now let’s look at how my budget worked out (including my latest net worth update).
Before I jump into the numbers, here’s a quick breakdown of what type of work kept me so busy this month. Right now, I have four clients I work with on a regular basis: two I do some writing/editing for, one I help create online courses with and one blog/community I manage. I also make some extra money through sales of the Mindful Budgeting Program and get little bonuses through referrals, etc. This month, I spent the majority of my time working on online courses, because the client had some major deadlines to hit with their higher-ups and I wanted to help as much as I could.
When I decided to become a full-time freelancer, I didn’t know exactly what I would be working on every week, but I knew I wanted 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 my job. In July, however, I was so burnt out that I actively chose to work less, and made $4,773 as a result. In August, I put in the hours to reach my goal and made $6,226. And this month, I hustled and earned $6,850 – $2,400 (35%) of which I set aside for taxes. Here’s what I did with the leftover $4,450.
Life Expenses – $2,649 (60%)
September was an extremely frugal month that came with one big expense: car insurance. For the past couple of years, I’ve been paying my car insurance monthly, largely due to the fact that it was $145-$151/month when I was still in Vancouver. Since moving back to the island, however, my car insurance has gone down dramatically. Even with ICBC’s newest rate increase, I’m still only paying $81/month – so I decided to pay for an entire year, instead. Paying for the year didn’t save me a ton of cash (only $32, in fact) but I was sick of having to think about the monthly payment. Had I chosen to stick to monthly payments, I would’ve spent just $1,790 ($1,709 + $81 insurance) on living expenses in September! Instead, I handed over $940 to ICBC and removed one monthly annoyance from my financial life.
Travel – $601 (13%)
I set my travel budget at $600, for my trip to Charlotte, so this should be a win… but the trip was actually more expensive than I had anticipated, thanks to the ever-dropping Canadian dollar. Right now, our dollar is at its lowest level since 2004, sitting at just 75 cents per $1 USD. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the exchange rate. Our dollar has been low since summer 2014, and I’ve done enough travelling south of the border between then and now to know it’s not really a great time for Canadians to be travelling south of the border. But $0.75… that hurt.
To put it into perspective, one night we went out for a nice dinner and I spent $30 US – that’s $40 CAD. I never spend that kind of money here! (You’d better believe I ate a lot of cheap food options after that.) And my hotel was $290 US which is $400 CAD. I had a great time with everyone there, so I can’t complain about the trip… it just wasn’t fun to see all those extra dollars disappear. Anyway, when it comes to variable expenses like this, I try to include a good buffer in my budget; in this category, I needed it. (And I’m sad to say I don’t think I’ll be crossing the border again any time soon.)
Savings – $1,200 (27%)
Finally, a number that makes me happy. If you consider that I actually made $6,850 this month but saved $2,400 right off the top, tack this on and I really saved 53% of my income this month – and that feels pretty darn good. I still feel this constant need to earn extra money and cut my spending back even further, though, so I can save more more more. I don’t know when the savings bug hit me this hard (maybe right before I quit my job?) but I constantly feel this need to hoard as much cash as possible. Speaking of that, it’s been three months (a full quarter) since my last net worth update. The numbers have gone down with the market, but then I’ve kept more cash, so I’m basically where I was before:
Note: It hurts to be sitting on this much cash right now, but the $9,000 in my chequing account is technically my emergency fund (now just referred to as my “buffer”) and the $7,000 in savings… well, I’d like to invest some of it in my TFSA index fund, but I’ve been told not to just yet. If something bad is going to happen to the markets soon, I would rather have the cash (especially since I’m self-employed now)… so I don’t mind waiting for a little longer. (Also, I don’t include all the money I have saved for future taxes, in my net worth, since it’s an asset I will eventually be giving to the government.)
Shopping Ban Update
Now that I’ve gone over the numbers, it’s time for a shopping ban update. I’m getting ready to finish the 15th month of my 24-month shopping ban, which means I have just 9 months left. (Seriously, where is the time going!?) The purpose of the first yearlong shopping ban was for me to become a more conscious consumer and I have certainly accomplished that. When I finished the first year, though, I realized that my one regret was not keeping better track of all the things I did have to buy (toiletries, etc.) – so I decided to do it again. During the second year, I’m tracking every item I buy, so I can show you what an average (female) consumer might need in a year – and this month, that wasn’t much.
Items I purchased in September 2015:
- 1 box of tampons (needed them in Charlotte, didn’t have my DivaCup)
- 1 long-sleeved shirt (tossed 2 t-shirts, replaced with 1 and wear it constantly)
And that’s it. I literally had to double-check my receipts and walk around my place to confirm I hadn’t bought anything else. If I’d brought/used my DivaCup and decided not to replace those old tops, I wouldn’t have bought a single thing in September…
…so that’s what I’m going to challenge myself to try to do in October!
October Challenge: Buy Nothing New
Seeing how much more I was able to bring my living expenses down by, this month, was extremely motivating. For months – even years – I’ve been hovering around the $2,200 mark (some months more, some a little less). But knowing I could’ve spent just $1,800 this month, if I hadn’t paid for that year of car insurance, gave me a thrill. (I believe the Frugalwoods would say that makes me a frugal weirdo.) In October, I not only want to challenge myself to spend less than $2,000 on living expenses, I also want to buy nothing other than groceries and gas.
This challenge won’t be easy for me. Some of my makeup is running out, I’ve realized I don’t own a thin long-sleeved jacket or sweater that’s appropriate for hiking in the fall, and the holidays are coming. (Christmas is the day after Halloween, right? Oh, never mind – only stores think that here in Canada.) Buying nothing other than groceries and gas will require me to get pretty creative, but you’ll all be here to help me come up with ideas for how to get through it, right!?
Also, a little fun fact for you: today is my 5-year blogoversary!
On October 1, 2010, I setup “blondeonabudget.wordpress.com” and entered my first weekly spending report. I never imagined I’d still be writing here 5 years later, or how many wonderful opportunities would come from it. Thank you for being the best online friends I could ask for.
Now… are you up for a 31-day shopping ban!? :)