November 2015 Budget & Shopping Ban Update

Care to go on a trip down memory lane with me, friends? As I was working on this post, I remembered that the first budget I ever wrote was in November 2011. Sometimes I hate going back to old posts, because they remind me of different life stages I was in (some not always pleasant to revisit) and the writing was so bad. But the budgets… I love looking at old budgets! My very first one shows you how serious I was about paying off my debt, in the early days. In November 2011, I brought home approx. $2,775 and anticipated that I’d put $1,632 towards debt repayment – that was 59% of my income!

This month, I earned $4,590 through freelance client work, set aside $1,377 (30%) for taxes and another $1,029 (22%) for retirement; that’s not quite 59%, but it’s pretty close – and I’d never know this stuff, if I hadn’t documented it all here! As I said in my interview with Mark for his guest post on Rockstar Finance this week, I don’t share numbers so we can all compare them against one another – I do it to stay accountable and to track my progress. If you want to be able to analyze your numbers and find trends, I’d suggest you save copies of your budgets somewhere, too. :)

Now, to this month’s budget – the final one in my fourth year of doing this!

November Budget

Life Expenses – $1,845 (57%)

November ended up being one of the cheapest months I’ve had all year, probably largely due to the fact that I was working at home for most of it. In fact, my gas budget proves that more than anything else – I spent just $39.40 on it all month (and still have half a tank)! I had anticipated spending approx. $1,700 this month, but ended up buying Christmas cards and stamps, sending a couple gifts in the mail, and then buying a few things for myself which we’ll talk about below. All-in-all, I’m grateful to have had such an inexpensive month right before the holidays. I don’t anticipate Christmas costing more than $300, but it’s still nice to know my budget won’t be stretched for it.

Travel – $339 (11%)

One of the other reasons my living expenses were so low this month is because I was away for the first week. November marked the end of what has been a crazy year of travel. My final trip was to Toronto for a Financial Literacy Month event with Tangerine Bank, which was both exciting to be part of, and also fun because it gave me a chance to hangout with all the Toronto personal finance geeks I love! On the way back, I had a stopover in Winnipeg for three nights, where I stayed with David and got to do some sightseeing in between visits. I’m so grateful I was able to take that last trip, before the year was up… even more so, because of the crazy thing that happened at the end.

On the night I was flying home from Winnipeg, I had a two-hour layover in Vancouver. As soon as I walked up to my gate, Air Canada announced that the flight had been oversold and they needed someone to give up their seat. In exchange for missing the 10:30pm flight home, they were offering a free night at the Fairmont in the airport, room service and a seat on any flight home the next day – plus an $800 travel voucher valid for one year. It was Saturday night and I had nothing important to do on Sunday, so I jumped up from my seat and nearly ran to the counter. After a good night’s sleep, I flew home at 9am the next day with an $800 voucher in my pocket – and I have big things planned for it!

Savings – $1,029 (32%)

And finally, thanks to a super frugal month, I managed to set aside a good chunk of my freelance income for retirement. After barely saving anything last month, I’m grateful I could invest more in November. In looking back at my budgets from the past five months, this seems to be a trend: I don’t save much one month, then save a lot the next month. It’s working out so I’m saving approx. $679/month, which isn’t nearly as much as I was saving when I was working at a day job, but it’s not bad considering I’m still so new to this full-time freelance thing! I’m not entirely sure what December will hold, as I’ve heard it’s a quiet month for freelancers… but I’ll do what I can!

Shopping Ban Update

Now, onto my favourite topic these days: the shopping ban! Last month, I managed to get through an entire 31 days without buying a single thing, other than food. It was a feat worth celebrating, I suppose… however, by the end of it, I had a small list of toiletries I needed to buy – and I basically ran to the store and bought them all on November 1st.

Items I purchased in November 2015: 

  1. 1 bottle of shampoo (I gave up on the baking soda / apple cider vinegar thing – will talk about this more soon)
  2. 1 bottle of conditioner
  3. 1 travel size toothpaste (Are there refillable travel size toothpaste containers? Is that a thing?)
  4. 1 x 1L jug of oil for my car
  5. Adele’s new album* (iTunes)
  6. 2 boxes of Christmas cards (30 total)

*I feel fine about all of my purchases, except I can’t quite figure out if buying Adele’s album broke the ban or not. Technically, I’ve never put downloadable items on the list of things I can’t buy… but it still felt like shopping, all the same. Nonetheless, I listen to it every single day, so I’m getting my money’s worth. And making sure I buy things I use/get good value out of is what this is all about now.

I’m hoping December will be another fairly inexpensive month. I do have to go over to Vancouver for two days, to see my doctors before I have surgery in the spring, but otherwise I’ll just be at home… relaxing, reading and writing. I know I’m going to have to buy one thing in December, so far, and that’s a new pair of pyjama pants. The one pair I owned managed to get a 12″ rip in it that I’ve fixed once before and just can’t continue to salvage – so I tossed those and still need to replace them. Besides that, I doubt I’ll need anything! But I still have to think about Christmas shopping…

How did your month finish up!? What do you have planned for December?

  • I think Adele’s album was a good purchase!

    On the toothpaste–not sure if they have this in your stores but the main brands often have a 3 oz size, usually hidden near the bottom shelf of the toothpaste selection. It’s usually the same price as travel size but it’s way bigger and fits airline limitations.

    • Hmm, good to know! I run out of the travel size ones very quickly (and prefer to only take carry-on when I travel). Thanks!

  • Great job! I think the Adele album is fine. It doesn’t take up any physical space, and you are enjoying the experience of listening to it (or belting it out in the car if you are anything like me!).

  • Kudos to you on a terrific month. I have always loved your transparency with numbers, and it’s great that it helps you track your progress. Finishing a tube of toothpaste drives me bonkers because it seems like there is so much waste left over. As for Adele, even if you don’t commute much, it’s important to have good music ready for car-certs. I’m all for belting out her tunes off key with the windows up :)

    • Haha, sounds like you, me and Melissa should go for a cruise and do some singing (with the windows up!). ;)

  • Love these updates! I often have to travel for work, and after I decant a few days worth of toothpaste into small containers that are made for hold lotion (They are circular. I recycled one that previously held lip balm.) It’s not the traditional toothpaste container – but it works for a few days!

    • Oh yea, that’s a good idea too! Then I could bring a couple with me. Thanks for the suggestion :)

  • Sounds like a great month Cait, I especially liked the fact that you got a big travel credit for next year that’s awesome I always want to take those but never have yet. My month was great for side income I think the most I’ve ever made but I haven’t done the numbers yet to check. Anyway keep up the good work (and I say downloading music doesn’t count against the ban)


      • Right now I have 3 things I would consider “side income”. 1. I drive for lyft, 2. I sell FBA on Amazon, and 3. I have a pharmacy discount card that I get money every time someone uses.

  • You can actually refill a travel toothpaste from a regular container. It isn’t perfect but I’ve been doing this for a few months with a lot of luck.

    First, squeeze the air from the travel toothpaste container. Then, press the tips together and squeeze the regular toothpaste into the travel sized one. Start slowly and don’t squeeze too long or it will leak. Occasionally, tap the travel container on the counter to help the toothpaste get to the bottom and past any trapped air.

    My all-time favorite frugal travel toiletry is Dr. Bronner’s unscented baby soap. A few drops lathers up incredibly and can wash head to toe plus laundry. Target usually sells a 1 oz. size. :) :)

    • So many good tips in this comment, Niki! I hadn’t thought of trying to refill a tube of toothpaste before… I don’t really mind buying them, just feel bad about all the waste! I’ll try this when my next one runs out. Thank you!

      • I do this as well – refill my travel toothpaste with my regular size toothpaste. It works really well, even when the travel size one is not empty. Some times I just need to “top it up” to make it last for the duration of my trip. :) I also don’t mind the expense of buying a smaller tube, but I don’t like causing more garbage than necessary.

  • That travel voucher is definitely a major score. I am on a no spend diet, not because I want to but because I have to and its been a good experience so far. It’s amazing after a couple of weeks has past and you realize that you really don’t need to spend so much money.

    • Yes! That’s amazing, Petrish. Have there been any specific instances where you’ve thought about buying something and then realized you *really* don’t need it/would be fine without it? :)

  • I dont know if refillable travel toothpaste is a thing, but you could always just squeeze toothpaste into a small container. Thats what I do when my face moisturizer is running low and cant pump anymore.

    • Yes, that’s a great idea, Casey! I realized I could probably even use something like a travel size shampoo container, and just fill it up part way. Thanks!

  • Another Amazing month in the Cait book! I’m glad you choose to do Christmas cards. I love them. And I am definitely still jealous of your Fairmont stay and travel voucher! Alaska Airlines doesn’t do that very often. I keep waiting!

    • Oh, I will always send out some handwritten Christmas cards! I can’t help myself :) oh, and my tip for you would be to take the last flight home at night (and be ok if you missed it haha).

  • For the toothpaste – if you have an empty travel toothpaste tube – line up your regular toothpaste and the travel tubes (spout to spout) – squeeze. An easy trick and you never have to worry about finding the travel toothpastes. It totally works and is super easy.

  • Dear Cait,

    I hope you will bring the weekly reports back. I really loved the parts about workouts and goal settings etc. Helped me and I am sure, a lot of people. If some signed off, it is too bad.

    I hope you will bring it back.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Mira! I still don’t think I’m going to bring them back – at least not anytime soon. I’ll send out some more private updates to my email subscribers, but don’t want to write about my personal life on weekly basis right now. Thanks for understanding :)

  • Yay, congrats on a great month, Cait! Also, I have never heard an airline offer more than about $200 as an incentive to give up your seat, so $800 plus perks sounds like a minor miracle. Room service???? :) Wow.

    I’m definitely interested to hear more about the acv adventures. I have one friend who swears by this, but I’ve never been brave enough to try it myself.

    I for one am going to vote that Adele’s album is an acceptable purchase under the ban. Also, did you see the Saturday Night Live skit where Adele saves Thanksgiving? I highly, highly recommend it. Just google “adele SNL thanksgiving miracle.” :)

    • They said they only offer $800 if the time between your flights is more than 6 hours. Since mine was an overnight (and 11-hour difference), I got the full $800 – and feel so lucky to have been in a position where I could accept it! I watched the Adele episode live! It was hilarious. And I’ll definitely write about the no shampoo/conditioner experiment. In short: it made my hair fall out.

  • I think we did 99% of our December spending in October and November, so it should be a quiet month for us too. We aren’t travelling, so that is good. We are hosting a huge party this weekend. Very much looking forward to it!

  • For travel, I use a toothbrush I purchased at MEC (I think is may be made by GoToob?) – the handle is hollow and contains a refillable toothpaste tube. You just refill it from a regular tube of toothpaste as needed. It also has a cover to put over the bristles. I originally purchased it for back-country canoeing and camping, but also use it whenever I travel by means other than my canoe. :)

    • Neat! And the refillable toothpaste tube is within the limit for carry-on luggage!? I may need to look into this, when the ban is over!

  • Well done, Cait! November was a spendy month for me, too – but I bought 6 of 7 Christmas gifts (all for family), so December should be a simpler month. I don’t think I’ve ever been so prepared for Christmas… I bought my dad’s gift on October 31!
    The last few months have been full of work, conferences, and social stuff, so I’m looking forward to working less in December and relaxing more. With Christmas presents done, I have more time to enjoy the season.

    • Yes, you certainly do, Maggie! I still haven’t even started thinking about Christmas shopping… We’re starting to just ask for boring things like socks and pyjamas, haha. Should make shopping easy, if we stick to that. ;) Here’s to a quiet month!

  • Love your blog, I follow you on bloglovin. I was wondering if any of your favourite toronto personal finance geeks have blogs I can also follow? I’m a torontonian myself and It’s always great to get some Canadian, especially local content! Thanks!

    • People keep telling me about Muji… but, of course, it opened after I started the ban, haha. Thanks for the tip, though! I don’t know when I’ll be back, but will definitely keep that in mind!

  • That stay at the Fairmount, Cait – whoo hoo! What an incredible spur-of-the-moment adventure! I’m so glad to hear that between months you are able to balance out putting money towards savings. Every month isn’t going to be as set as planned, but it’s that mentality of knowing the next month there will be more to set aside that gives great momentum. :) I’m looking forward to December! With Secret Santa exchanges – things have been quite smooth sailing on the wallet! I’m hoping to keep providing money/time to surprise philanthropic things during the holiday season (inspired by Laura Vanderkamp’s All The Money In
    The World Book – I need to give you a run down on that)!

    • YES, you do! I want to read a couple PF books in January. I’m guessing that needs to be one of them!? :)

      • Yes – absolutely! There were so many themes & ideas that resonated with me in her book. I’ve heard that this book pairs well with her “168 Hours” book (I haven’t read that one yet) – so I am looking into doing that as well. The overarching theme is to make the best and appreciative with what you have now, versus always overstretching for more. I think that’s incredibly important in lots of areas of life. :)

  • I see that the Adele CD was in the “got to have” not “nice to have” category. Too funny, my wife loves Adele’s new CD. Congrats on how far you’ve come since 2011, way to go!

    • Ha! Yes, it’s been nice to have… but I listen to it every single day, which means I needed it… right!? ;)

  • I have to admit, even as a subscriber to an unlimited streaming music service, I’m a sucker for the big pop albums on iTunes. Taylor Swift and Adele can just have all my money as long as they’re not on those streaming sites. I totally support that purchase :)

    Also, I’m so excited for you and your travel voucher! Sleeping in the Fairmont is a pretty great way to earn $800!

  • Hi Cait!

    When you say “I don’t save much one month, then save a lot the next month” I can relate to that which is why I tend to track my financial progress more on a quarterly basis than on a monthly basis.

    November was a busy month for us – didn’t save a lot but met our budget targets. Some of our Christmas shopping got done during the past month (especially during the very early hours of Black Friday – lol) but December is usually when we spend more to finish off things. Some of that money though is not spent on material purchases but rather on our year end RESP contributions to each of our 5 grand kids – an investment in their futures is how we like to consider it. Despite all this spending we still figure to keep within planned budget since December is when our incomes increase (via year end credit card cash back rewards received along with some investment dividend cash) so it’s all good.

    • Yea, I’m going to have to seriously rethink my budgeting strategy, if I keep selling physical products like the planner, haha – it’s been a weird experiment! (With big expenses!) Quarterly might be the way I go in 2016 – we’ll see. Anyway, good to hear you got some of your shopping done! We still haven’t started, haha. But I think we’re only getting a couple small things each – will pick them up this week, perhaps. And I got my cash back rewards in November! Was a nice $350 surprise.

  • MEC is the go-to spot for re-fillable toothpaste tubes. Aurelle Toob has a travel kit (brush + refillable tube) and Humangear GoToob might be a really good option. Love hearing about your shopping ban – it has been a huge inspiration for me!

  • What, if any, are a few things you wish you would have kept but didn’t? Or are there any things you tossed and could have used now instead of rebuying (i.e.: did you donate extra pajamas pants by chance)? Just really curious! Love this blog! Love your message!

    • Haha, I’m definitely asking for pyjama pants, Sanita! And Kristy, I honestly don’t regret anything I got rid of. I did get rid of 1 pair of pyjama pants, but they were too big… so I could’ve used them, but would’ve hated wearing them! Good questions, though. :)

  • First and foremost, I love your blog! Thank you for taking the time each week to share your journey. You mentioned this week that you have given up baking soda and vinegar and went back to shampoo; have you ever thought about doing water only? I’ve been doing it for about a month and I’m liking the results so far. I first learned of it through a zero waste/minimalist blog ParisToGo. If you’ve never heard of it you’d probably like it. For water only, a good scalp massage and brushing with a boar hair bristle brush daily and washing with only water as needed will work wonders for your hair. Hope you find a hair care solution you love soon!

    P.S. Since I’m new to your blog, I’ve been reading the archives to catch up and your old posts are great!

    • My husband does water only for about 10 years now – the trick which you didn’t mention is to get through the first month or so when it is grease city and then the scalp self-regulates and is the oil is completely fine. He figures that’s the only reason he has any hair left at all.

    • Huh. I’ve never heard of doing water only! Or that blog! I’ll have to look at both – thank you, Janice and Annet!

  • Not sure if this is how it works in Canada, but here in the U.S., the dentist gives me a free dental goodie bag to encourage good hygiene after each check-up (every six months) (the dentist probably gets some kickbacks so it’s a wiin-win). The staff gives me a free toothbrush, toothpaste (travel size), mouth wash (travel size), floss (travel size), etc. I save all of these for travel / visiting guests. It doesn’t save a ton but every little bit helps!

    • I remember getting those when I was a kid, but haven’t gotten one in years… maybe I’m too old, by my dentist’s terms!? :(

  • I love that you go back and read your old posts, and it’s so cool that you have a record of what you’ve spent every month! We haven’t started rereading our “old” (not really that old) ones yet, since we feel like we’re just finding our voice on this blog, and don’t want to roll our eyes just yet at where we started. :-) As for the travel voucher, that is so awesome! Since I travel so much for work, and am often on oversold flights, your tweet about getting that voucher inspired me to start listening when they make that pitch. So often I’m in a rush to get to a meeting or in a rush to get home because I’m exhausted and am craving my own bed, but it’s sometimes a pretty huge incentive they’re offering, and worth the inconvenience! Thanks for the inspiration. :-)

    • Hey, glad I could help! I hesitated for a second, because I *was* tired and did want to get home… but then I was like, wait, what am I doing!? I NEED TO SAVE $800 ON TRAVEL NEXT YEAR! And I bolted, haha. One extra night away was definitely worth it. Hope you can snag the deal too, soon! :)

  • The Container Store sells a BPA free refillable travel size toothpaste tube for $5.99. It has an attachment that fits between the tube and your toothpaste. If you travel a lot, it’s worth the investment. And you can use your preferred toothpaste.

    • That darn Container Store! We don’t have one here… maybe I can ask Santa to bring me one from the North Pole!? ;) Thanks for letting me know, Meghann! Appreciate it!

    • I replied to this via text, but for anyone else who might be curious, it’s amazing! I listen to it every day, and fall in love with new songs each week. There’s a good mix of ballads and upbeat songs. Her best album yet, in my opinion!

  • Congratulations on a killer month! If you were going to “break” the shopping ban, I feel like Adele was a worthy reason to do so ;) haha. Glad to hear that you’re enjoying it!

    Also, OMG! I saw your tweet about the stay in the Fairmont and that’s SO cool that it was totally free. Love that you snagged that amazing offer.

    My November included quite a few extra expenses due to Christmas presents and my partner’s December birthday, but they were all worth it :)

  • I’m new to minimizing everything. I’m glad you were able to go thirty days only paying for food. I also like the idea of specifically documenting expenses. I run a pretty tight budget these days but never really specifically watch the percentages. I just count victories now as a win when I have more in savings at the end of the month than at the beginning. Keep up the good work!

    • Well that’s ok! That’s certainly how I started – by counting wins. Percentages are just more interesting for me now, because I’m finally focused on saving money, and also want to keep my expenses low so I can travel as much as possible. But we all have our strategies. :)

  • Cait!
    I LOVE reading you!!!! You are so authentic… and inspirational!!
    THANK YOU for sharing!!!!
    Cat :)

  • that travel voucher is seriously awesome!! I would have totally been sprinting to get in on that!! I have been reading your blog for about three months now and I love your creative approach to things!

    There are squishy travel tubes (called goo tubes, google them) I think you can get them on amazon and they would work really well to hold tooth paste! My pet peeve is non squeezable travel bottles where you can only get like a pea sized blob of shampoo out! I have seen them at dollar stores and the bay!


    • Ahhh, more great suggestions re: travel toothpaste container options – thanks, Samantha! I’ll have to come up with a new solution in 2016, for sure. :)

  • Congratulations, Cat, on another inspiring month. I second the idea of squeezing a little toothpaste into a small empty container, like a lip balm tin–so easy. I’m thinking about a Buy Nothing New ban of my own for the next year, so lovely hearing from this community here.

    • Oh, I’m so glad you commented so I could find your blog! I love that you take your own pics – something I’d like to do more of next year. Anyway, yes, a small container does sound great, at this point. I’ll have to see what I can scrounge up :)

      • Oh, Cait, that totally makes my day! Thanks for visiting. Taking my own pictures takes time, but I’m learning so much about photography in the process, which is a total win. If you start taking more of your own, email me & we can swap tips (more like commiserate, ha!) :)

  • Wout! Wout! Good job this month!
    My own shopping ban is not going so great, and you know what? I’m fine with it. Because I’ve realized that I am *not* a spender. Actually, I will spend too much on crap like junk food and then will have trouble treating myself to things that actually make me feel good like massages, clothes, earings, etc. I have trouble spending when it’s for “futile” things, and believe it or not I kind of need it. Instead of spending on crap that makes me feel bad about myself. So my resolve is to use my money differently now.
    Have a great day!

  • I have not tried it, but you can make toothpaste dots by squeezing small dollops of toothpaste onto foil and letting them dry for 24-48 hours. Then to use them you just pop one in your mouth, add some water, chew, and brush!

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