October 2015 Budget & Shopping Ban Update

Holy cow, where did the month of October go, friends? I’ve basically been travelling since the 14th, so it shouldn’t surprise me that time flew by… but I honestly can’t believe it’s already November 4th. Everywhere I look, Christmas decorations are going up, music is playing, and people are talking about how many weekends there are left between now and December 25th. I’m grateful my family has decided to do another low-key Christmas, so I don’t have to spend the next 7 weekends shopping… but I’m guessing the final few weeks of the year will still come and go quickly.

Before I jump ahead and start thinking about the holidays, though, I still need to review my October budget. If you remember, September was a great month for me, financially-speaking. I worked a lot and brought in a good amount of money, but I also wasn’t particularly happy about working that much. My goal for October was to work less – way less while I travelled – and essentially earn the minimum amount of money I needed to cover all my living expenses, taxes and travel. In total, I earned $4,502 – $1,575 (35%) of which I set aside for taxes. Here’s what I did with the leftover $2,927.

October Budget

Life Expenses – $2,240 (77%)

When I mapped out my budget for October, I thought it was going to be a fairly frugal month, but it ended up being a bit more “spendy” than I originally expected – and for reasons of my choosing. The biggest expense came when I decided to go to the dentist. Paying $170 to have your teeth cleaned and x-rayed isn’t fun, per se, but I’m happy to pay that once/year to keep my smile bright. While I was there, my hygienist told me so many horror stories about people who don’t go in for 3-5 years, some simply because they think/assume the bill is going to be astronomical. As a self-employed individual, I have no health insurance/company benefits and the bill was just $170. Take note. :)

Travel – $522 (18%)

I originally set my travel budget at $600 again, this month, and ended up spending less – a huge win, considering that I went on two trips for a total of 9 days. First, I flew out to Toronto for the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. I redeemed WestJet dollars for the flight and, while I was there, saved money by staying with my old roommate and eating many of the free meals provided. The weekend after I got back, I took the ferry over to Vancouver for 3 nights. Again, I stayed with friends, did a lot of free activities (walking, hiking, free PechaKucha event, etc.) and only went out for a couple of meals. All-in-all, I’m extremely happy with how little I managed to spend on travel this month.

Savings – $165 (5%)

Finally, if you’ve added up the other numbers already, you know I didn’t have much leftover to save this month – and, of course, I’m not thrilled with that. However, my intention for October was to earn enough to cover all my expenses, and I did exactly that. I didn’t actually put this $165 into a savings account; it’s simply sitting in my chequing account, along with the buffer I like to keep in there at all times. The one savings-related move I did make earlier this month, though, was finally putting some of my cash savings into my TFSA index fund. I use my TFSA to save for retirement, so bought while the market was down and it has since gone up. Of course, none of this matters, as I’m in it for the long haul… but that’s what I did in October!

Shopping Ban Update

Now, let’s get to the good stuff: the shopping ban! This Friday, I’m crossing the 16-month mark of my 24-month shopping ban, which means I have just 8 months left to go. As you know, the rules state that I’m allowed to buy things whenever I run out of them (like basic cosmetics, toiletries, etc.). My goal for October, however, was to buy nothing new – and I’m happy to say I didn’t buy a single thing in those 31 days! I was tempted by a few small items, and knew I would need to buy some things on November 1st, but it was still a successful month.

Items I purchased in October 2015: 0!

In that time, I was also reminded of how many items we all own that we could simply swap or pass onto friends and family. For example, I was running out of eyeshadow and my friend Amanda told me she had a bunch of unused palettes she wanted to get rid of. Rather than throw them out, she gave them to me! And I gave her a book in the spring, which means we’ve made an official swap. Those are a few less things in the landfill that are now being used rather than wasted. (Have you ever swapped items with friends? I’d love to hear what you got rid of/were given!)

There is one number I need to correct, in this big experiment, and that’s the number of things I bought in September. When I track my spending, I check all my bank and credit card accounts to see where my money went. What I forgot to check in September was the receipt I had for a purchase I made with a Visa gift card a client gave me, which I used to finally buy myself a piece of carry-on luggage (on the approved shopping list!). Finding that receipt was a good reminder of how easy it can be to forget about money you’ve spent and things you’ve bought… (I didn’t remember until I started packing!)

I think that sums up October 2015. My budget for November should look different, as I believe I’ll earn closer to $6,000 and be able to save some money again. I’m still travelling a bit, though. I flew back to Toronto on Monday, for a two-day Financial Literacy Month event with Tangerine Bank. And this afternoon, I’m flying to Winnipeg, where I’ll be for the rest of the week (and fortunately, the cold weather hasn’t come out yet!). I’m flying back to Victoria on Saturday and should be home for the rest of the month, which I know my budget will thank me for. :)

How did your month finish up!?

  • Hi Cait!,

    Happy to see that October was a productive month for you. I love this time of the year as the leaves change colour (although it does mean lots of leaf raking around our place). Hope you enjoyed your stay in Toronto and the weather this past week has been down right balmy here (although expected to get a tad cooler next week – just as you arrive back in town – lol).

    Anyway, October was a good month financially for us. We did some travelling out of town to family and relatives, stayed under budget (as we usually tend to do) and our long term investments increased in value by 1% (a nice reversal from previous months). Unlike yourself, we both have dental insurance and that completely covers our annual dental expenses (which is a large bonus). As you say, one should try to take care of one’s teeth in order to stay healthy overall. To prove that point, my mom (who’ll be 95 next spring still has most of her teeth. She has always been a fanatic when it comes to dental care).

    November is shaping up to be a good month as well. Budget-wise, I have factored in our seasonal car winterizing expenses (mtce, snow tires, etc.). That said, I read somewhere that they expect that we should have a mild winter this year. Sure hope so. Anyway, have a great day and hope that you’re progressing along well on those activities that you emailed me about awhile ago.

    • Hey Rob! Sorry it took so long to reply to this. The trip to Toronto was great! How did we get so lucky to have that streak of warm weather!? 18C in November? I was practically sweating, haha. Great to hear you had a good month, and that November is shaping up nicely! I hope you guys do have a mild winter… you definitely deserve it, after the last few!

  • Hi Cait,
    Sounds like you had a great month. The whole thing about personal finance and simple living is not to make the most amount of money but to have the most time to do the things you want and not have to worry about money. I love the fact that you actually made less money this month, was still able to pay all the bills have some left over and did a ton of traveling like you want. That to me is a dream come true. I often tell people I don’t care about money and they all get very confused and then say that I must care about it because I work so much to get it, talk about financial things all the time and the like, what I tell them is that I don’t care about money, I care about freedom money gets me.
    My October was well not as exciting as I would have liked, I think it as my highest income month in my life but I’m trying a new budgeting strategy out right now with the wife (who is a HUGE spender) and I think we spent more money in the month then we made but in the long run it will all work out for the best.

    • Interesting you were trying a new strategy but ended up spending more, Tyler. I’m curious what the new strategy was? :)

  • Excellent work in October! Traveling below budget is always a win! AND not having to buy anything while you were out? We traveled too, but realized when we arrived we had forgotten deodorant and my daughter’s swimsuit. I totally kicked myself as we headed to Target to replace those items (especially since swimming in the hotel pool was part of the vacation plan!).

    • It’s so easy to forget things, when you go away… but at least there was a Target nearby! I ended up forgetting/losing my earbud headphones in Winnipeg last weekend, so flew home without any music/podcasts/TV. I thought about buying one of the cheap pairs they sell on the plane, but knew I had another set of headphones at home, so I just sucked it up! Was a quiet ride…

  • I’m so glad you like the eyeshadows and will get far more use out of them than I ever would! I LOVE swapping stuff. I traded a Kate Spade purse for a fancy clothes steamer with a former colleague earlier this year and we were both really happy (in both of our cases, the item was a spare of what we already had — long story — so it really worked out well for us).

  • Have fun in the ‘Peg! :-) While we aren’t doing an official shopping ban (just had that two-month version back in the spring which helped reset our habits), we are trying to make do without buying. Run out of toothpaste? Bust out some baking soda and coconut oil. No more vinegar for cleaning? Use the Dr. Bronners. I’m finding this attempt to substitute rather than buy to be super helpful — and just refreshing! It makes us feel a lot more resourceful than we did back in the days when we had a different product for everything.

    • That’s AWESOME! I have to admit, I gave up on the idea of making my own laundry detergent and just bought some on November 1st. But I love using baking soda, vinegar and lemon for cleaning products. And I still really want to make candles… maybe as holiday gifts!

  • Cait – what a fantastic October you had! Even though you may not have made as much income as September, I am so glad to hear you were able to dedicate a little less time to work, and more time to travelling & spending time with friends & family! The trade-offs are all worth it. :) I can’t believe you only have 8 months left to go on your two year shopping ban! Seriously, where is the time flying?!

  • Love love love swapping with friends. It keeps things out of the landfill, saves money, and helps people get what they need. However, I prefer to think of it not as swapping but as giving–if I have something that I don’t use but a friend could, I happily give it to them even for nothing in return. What friendships are all about! :) I’ve given many things: books, blankets, unused pantry items and have also gotten fun stuff like shirts, sweaters, and shoes. Just the best! If we all gave/swapped a little more I think we could all spend less but still have what we need/want. Glad you and your friend could share a little bit.

    • I really like this take, Celia, and am trying to remember to think in this way more often. A good friend of mine was trying to downsize this summer before moving out of state, and as part of this process she gave me her little laundry cart with wheels because she knew how much I hated carrying my laundry bag on my shoulder. It was really touching because she totally could have sold it on craigslist and made $20, but she chose to give it to me instead. It made me want to be more aware of what my friends might appreciate that I could give away to them.

      And, Cait: sounds like you had a great month in terms of taking care of yourself and choosing what you wanted to do with your time — that’s awesome! (Also thanks for reminding me that I should probably go to the dentist at some point…) :)

    • I’m right there with you, Celia! I’ve been giving a lot of books to friends lately, and it feels so good to know they are being used again by people I love. :)

  • I did end up buying new things – but now I have all my holiday shopping done. (Not that I have a lot, but I have some). In spite of this, we were $500 under our variable spending. Which was very exciting!

    • WOW! Your holiday shopping is done AND you came in under budget!? That’s amazing, Kristen! What financial goals do you have for the rest of the year? :)

    • Love what you guys are doing, Heather! Hope it’s successful. I can’t wait to read all the updates :)

  • Good job on your shopping ban continuation!
    For myself, except restaurants/junk food, I’m still going strong. But this (junk food) is my biggest weakness (no wonder I’m about 80-100 pounds overweight…). But, no new clothes, shoes, makeup, books, magazines, fancy dishware, diet club, jewelry, gym membership…. ooos, wait, I did register to the workplace gym, but it’s only 52$/year! So, yeah, all and all not a bad month in regards to my shopping ban.

    • Wow, that’s a crazy cheap price, Isabelle! I pay $36/month to go to the gym and thought *that* was cheap, haha. Sounds like you had an amazing month! Let our shopping bans continue :)

  • After reading your monthly budget updates, I’ve been inspired to start sharing my household’s monthly budget as well. I shared my first budget review yesterday, and it seriously feels amazing to publically discuss a topic that some people still deem “not polite for company”. So thank you for the encouragement your blog provides to those of us looking to have more of a conversation with our peers about money! I have not swapped any products with friends, but before I moved, I set aside a ton of stuff for friends and co-workers to have instead of just tossing in the trash. It definitely inspired me to always ask around before tossing/donating anything of value.

    • Woo hoo! I just left a comment on your blog, Lauren, but am not sure it went through! In case you don’t get it, the recap for everyone else is that it’s amazing you guys were able to live on 66% of your income and put the other 34% towards debt/savings! Here’s to another great month :)

  • I’ve recently discovered your blog and am thoroughly enjoying it because it covers two of my favorite topics: personal finance and minimalism! You mentioned keeping a buffer in your checking account. Could you share how much your buffer is and how you arrived at the amount?

    • Hey Kelli! I saved up $9,000 before I quit my job and keep it in my chequing account at all times. (I wanted to save more but ended up quitting a bit sooner than I’d expected.) It’s essentially my emergency fund, and just helps me sleep better at night, so I’m never worried about how I’ll pay rent/the bills!

      • Hi Cait,

        Just out of curiosity, why do you keep your buffer in your chequing account and not a savings account? (Unless maybe in Canada you earn interest in your chequing account.)

        Cheers Jen :)

        • Ha! That’s a good question that I don’t have a great answer for. Technically, I have both – cash in chequing and savings. I do earn a little bit of interest in the chequing account (0.25%) but my savings account does offer more (0.8%). I suppose it’s one of those emotional/sentimental things… I just like knowing I have money available to cover my rent, bills, etc. whenever those things get automatically debited. I don’t like having to worry about transferring money between accounts, etc. So it’s not perfect financial advice! Just gives me peace of mind. (My strategy changes all the time, though… so maybe my answer will be different in a year!)

  • YAY for making the dentist a priority! My dentist was one of the first to notice I had a soft tissue irregularity – which eventually led to a rheumatologist and a lupus diagnosis. I work in the field, and every dollar spent on preventive dental care saves at least $8 in restorative care (fillings, bridges). Wise investment, Cait!

    I can’t even pretend to be on a shopping ban. I’m clothes shopping, and honestly? I’m really enjoying it. With losing more weight my already-altered pants just can’t be altered anymore, and whittling down a dress is CRAZY expensive – I got the price and just sold my dresses on Craigslist instead. Also, I’ve been promoted! Last week I got two great work blouses at Goodwill – I thrift when I can, but nice suits in a petite size just don’t come by thrift stores all that often.

    Christmas is simplified in that all the kids get bookstore gift cards. It saves me a lot on shipping, the hubs and I are delighted to support their love of reading, and the nieces & nephews love picking out their own books.

    • Oh, and as for things swapped – my previous manager and I still get together every few months to swap magazines. We both save $ and the magazines get more use before getting recycled. I don’t swap so much as split. We coordinate Costco trips with another two-person household so that neither of us is overwhelmed with stuff, but we still save.

    • Good job on the weight loss, Stephanie! It’s important to feel good throughout that process, so don’t stress about needing some new clothes – and sounds like you’ve gotten good deals on stuff! I love that you give gift cards to the bookstore for Christmas. I got those + books a lot, when I was a kid. Couldn’t have asked for anything better :)

  • I once swapped jewelry with a good friend. Our birthdays were weeks apart and neither of us could afford a birthday gift for the other so I gave her an opal necklace my ex had bought for me that I never liked, but she did. And she gave me a pair of tiny diamond stud earrings her ex had bought for her instead of what she really wanted. We both loved the gifts – got rid of a bad memory – and those are now my lucky earrings. While I know these weren’t particularly practical exchanges, they were a way to give a dear friend a birthday gift and to pass on to someone who would appreciate them something that was not expensive, but too pricey just to donate.

    • Michelle – I LOVE that story. I feel like jewellery is something we hold onto, often for years longer than we really should. Because it’s typically more expensive than most other gifts we receive, I think we feel this need to keep it, even if we don’t wear it/love it (or have bad memories of who gave it to us). I love that you and your friend swapped pieces and now they are loved again. Thanks for making me smile :)

  • Dentists for the most part are a huge rip off. I take excellent care of my teeth and try to keep my dental visits to an absolute minimum.

  • I have been doing a minimalist challenge with a group of people on Facebook and it’s been amazing the stuff I am finding around my house that we just don’t really need. In order to give me motivation and to see just what the impact of doing this would be, I committed to putting all the money into a bank account with the purpose of making an extra mortgage payment. I am happy to say that after a few months, we have thrown out countless bags of garbage, donated lots of things, sold lots and currently have $410 sitting in that account. So, only have $44.81 to go and I will be making that extra payment! This has now turned into a family effort and it feels so good to be letting of things we don’t need cluttering up our house.

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