By: Revanche

A combined budget: first quarter down!

April 17, 2013

We’re a little more than three months into living on a combined budget.  And even though this is the first time PiC’s lived on such a detailed budget, we still seem to be doing sort of ok.

I say “sort of” because:

+ we’re not fighting tooth and nail over living by a budget (yay!)
+ we’re not fighting over anything budget at all (yay!)  (yes, I assume there’s going to be some amount of disagreement and conflict when you’re learning to live in new boundaries)
– we’re not exactly ON the budget in some places (boo!)
– we still need to discuss how to offset some of the early spending highs (boo!)

It’s a wash, as far as operations go.

As far as execution … we’re having a touch of trouble staying in our budgeted amount in certain categories and not yet doing a good job of pulling back in specific areas to make up for it. This goes against the grain. I’m a money hoarder and I would much rather spend on the low side of any budgeted amount throughout the year and have some left over. This is, of course, not PiC’s style.   🙂

Nearly four months into the year, I’d expect that our spending should be at about 33% of the budgeted amount across all categories. I’m seeing spending as low as 3 and 7% (less regular/essential categories) and as high as 47 and 53% (ahem someone’s allowance).

Overall, though, we only went over our monthly total once in the last three months and the monthly averages are very close to what we expect to be spending each month.  That helps ease the sting of what feels like budgetary failure.

Management is….

a bit complicated right now: we primarily use my American Express, and his Southwest Visa when it’s a non-American Express establishment. Then we have the odd cash or check expenditures. It all gets tallied into a spreadsheet on a (we try) weekly basis.

We’ve also finally opened a joint checking account to pay the bills from so that’ll help smooth out the problem of taking it turnabout to pay bills.  And, happy day! I may be able to start closing out some of my other banking accounts. I’ve got accounts across four banks right now.

Admittedly, I’ve been refusing to close my oldest checking account because it’s the one I opened when I first turned eighteen and was allowed to open my very open checking account.  (PF sentimentality!)  And I enjoy the freedom of having the choice of accessing ATMs for two B&M banks… but considering I have two branches of the other bank nearby and go to the ATM about 6 times a year, that’s not a good reason.

Observations …

We eat a lot.  Or rather, we spend a hell of a lot of money on not terribly fancy food. We don’t even buy beer (except once in several months), we only get basic (but good IMO) cheddar, we have a regular rotation of relatively “cheap” food & recipes around things like whole chickens but it’s more than offset by the handful of convenience foods that we buy for my fibro-body benefit.

Saving Money …

I’m over the moon about changing our cell phone plan with T-Mobile. SingleMa and I got into a conversation on Twitter about cell phone plans. Next day, we found the new contract-free plans and each saved a ton!  She reduced her bill by $40/month, ours should be less by $50/month.  Woot! That annual $600 will go a long way to making up for  buying a new phone a bit earlier than I wanted to. I hated dealing with the nonsense of their customer service which has gotten pretty iffy these past couple of years. It used to be rock solid but not so much anymore. A shame. I also finally sent in Mom’s death certificate to cancel her phone line, something I’m trying to be totally pragmatic about but I have to admit gives me a bit of a pang.

And after a couple months of paying too much for internet ($43) when our last promotion lapsed, I surfed AT&T’s promotions for Internet without a Phone Line while signed into my account and lo! They still pulled up the cheap-cheap plans!  I experimentally put it in my cart, put the live customer service chat on, and found that I could indeed switch to the $20/month plan without cancelling service. Check. That. Out. AT&T, making life easy for an existing customer.  Unbelievable. And I love it.

Total to be saved this year (8 months of each line being cheaper): $400 + 160 = $560!

Tax Time …

We got bitten by AMT this year. Sonnuva … it wasn’t terrible, insofar as the money’s concerned. My headache was another thing entirely, trying to learn everything specifically relevant I could about AMT on the fly. There was definitely cursing associated with this year’s taxes.

I managed to get all the forms in for an April 14th filing but then found out afterward that one of the forms was an estimate and the “responsible” (@$$shole) accountant didn’t bother to say so until well after the fact.  Again: cursing. Bitter? Yes.  Now I have to file amendments for this year as soon as those new forms are in.  Another hour and a half of my life re-committed to doing unnecessary taxes. Still, the bulk of it’s done and that’s something to be grateful for.

::How are you folks doing with your money these days?

10 Responses to “A combined budget: first quarter down!”

  1. eemusings says:

    Ugh, not the best, to be honest. Definitely going over budget with *someone’s* fun money. Will need to revisit our system post-travel.

  2. Morgaine says:

    I sooo hear ya on the food budget! Eating out (not including groceries) took up 3% of my budget for the last quarter, and that’s me alone, I don’t even want to think what it would be if me and T added those amounts up :S

  3. Michelle says:

    We’re not the greatest with following our budget either. It’s something that we’re always working on.

  4. sp says:

    details on t-mobile? What is the cost for 2/phones??

    I’m quite sure i’m still under AT&T contract, but always looking for options…. i wonder if I have a choice with internet – I”ve been paying too much forever, but haven’t price shopped in forever either.

    • Revanche says:

      Two phones with unlimited talk, text and data (only the first 500 MB are hi-speed unless you pay extra): $80.

      I do have an additional phone that’s $10 more.

  5. Kris says:

    It’s been a fun time here with student budgeting – I’m missing working FT but that’s so difficult in a Ph.D. program! (At least during coursework stage). I live pretty bare-bones, but it’s still challenging. I’ve saved about 80% of what I need to cover the 4 months of no paycheck coming up (summertime…), but am still hustling for extra work to fill the gap and hopefully start fall semester with some bank instead of penniless, like last year. A few opportunities are looking good, so that’s a plus.

    My challenge area is always food – during 12-14 hour days on campus, I almost always buy at least one cookie during the week, but usually an entire meal or two. I always deduct it from my grocery or “fun” budget, but still. (Even with a student budget, I allow myself $50/month for “fun” which includes all eating out, etc. I upped that to $75/month for summer so I don’t lose my mind, but cut in another area to cover,) Somehow I still live within about $1600/month in my (expensive) city, which allows me to save and to pay for trips to visit my elderly mother.

    However, Mom needs a new hearing aid now so I’m hustling for extra work to cover it. And I need some things for myself above day-to-day living – new glasses are overdue, some clothes need replacing. Just when you think everything’s planned perfectly… heh. But we’ll find a way!

  6. One horror show after another, here.

    Foremost, ‘ocourse, is the IRS’s having decided I earned 60 grand last year, not the 30 grand I actually did earn. They’re trying to sock me with a $10,000. The accountant and I have discovered the error and in fact I do not owe ten grand in back taxes and penalties, but it will cost me another tax preparation bill and a lot of hassle to prove it.

    Add to that the $350 I spent on my son’s birthday and I’m already deep in the red. Then the accursed Medigap insurer hit me with a $435 premium increase, which I can’t afford. And we’ve the $80 for the Tevas I had to buy for tomorrow’s hike, the first out-of-town trip I’ve made since I was laid off the job in 2009. The car needs a brake job, probably urgently; it soon will need four new tires.

    The money’s there, but in savings that I didn’t have in mind blowing in a single month.

  7. I’m doing better than expected so far… But I’ll have to wait for May to tell you how my finances will be as my job contract’s ending soon… O_O;;

  8. […] Revanche adds her thoughtful analysis in Blending spending styles and learning the art of compromise and living on a combined budget […]

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