Ever since we decided that the path for us is out of the rat race and into an early retirement of our choosing, the Mr. and I have been keeping an eye on our finances and scaling down our spending. Neither one of us were complete clowns, but we certainly weren’t looking out for our future selves at anywhere near the level we want/need to be.
So in comes the budget. Budgets don’t work for everyone and in the future it may not be necessary for us but for now it is the way we are buckling down and meeting the tough goals we’ve set for ourselves. Read more about how we budget here.
We are labeling March the month of Juice. Why? Because here in Arizona, March is the end of spring/beginning of Summer in terms of temperatures. We’ve already had a number of days above 90 (though luckily none above 100 yet). Why does that mean juice? Well in the winter, breakfast tends to be oatmeal. It’s cheap. It’s easy. It’s warm. Perfect. However, on a 90-degree day, it’s not quite as comforting so we switch to homemade veggie juice for breakfast.
We have a centrifugal juicer and each morning at 5:30am I whip up our concoction for the day. Normally it involves romaine, spinach, an apple, some carrots, and then I throw in cucumber, zucchini, beets or whatever else we have lying around the fridge. It takes some getting used to but both myself and the hubby feel great drinking our green juice in the morning. However, it does impact the pocketbook a bit. We never kept track of exactly how much juicing costs and therefore this month we are over budget in groceries, though not by much because, halfway through the month, I saw it coming and tried to head it off at the pass. Now, we know that cucumbers cannot go in every juice (we spent close to $25 alone on cucumbers!) if we want to stick to the budget. We will definitely do better in April.
The other big news this month was we refinanced our home. We’ve been planning it for a while and are pretty excited it’s all done and over with. We dropped our interest rate by a whole percentage point. Although that meant our savings took a hit this month, we planned for it and know that we will recoup all costs within the year and then be able to save even more each month towards our long term goals.
Lastly, since we are 3 months into 2015, I thought it was time for Steve and I to sit down and evaluate the budget. A lot of the categories were educated guesses since we hadn’t tracked our spending to this extent before. Thus, a quarterly evaluation seems like a good idea. This lead to us decreasing the budgeted amount in some categories and increasing it slightly in others. No big overall difference in the total amount we are budgeted to spend in a month, but hopefully a more accurate view going forward. We also decided to move all cleaning supplies, toilet paper, light bulbs etc out of our grocery budget and into our Home budget. This seems like a better place for this.
Anyway, we keep on moving and grooving along.
On to the numbers!
- Fixed Costs (Mortgages, HOA, Loans) $6649.16/ $3200.19 WOAH! AS I mentioned in the February article (as well as above), we planned to be over spending in this category this month due to our refinance! Yay! Next month, this will be super low (since we’ve already paid the mortgage for April) and we’ll be saving quite a bit month to month from now on. We’ll make up the cost of the refinance in just under a year and then it will all be extra savings towards the goal. Woohoo! Since this was a known event that we’ve been saving for I do not count this in our savings rate for the month.
- Utilities (electricity, gas, water etc.) $217.57/$370.79 (expected) <– Not actual savings since some utilities are paid quarterly so this was a lighter month. In addition you might notice the total expected cost is lower then in previous months. This is due to us cutting costs! Yay! Now to get the garbage cost down some….
- Monthly Costs ( phones, internet, gym, pets, car maint, etc.) $587.13/ $600 Right on target.
- Food (groceries and restaurants) $448.80/ $500 As explained above we went slightly over budget on groceries this month ($323.18/$300) but we were under budget on restaurants so it all worked out to meet our food budget in the end.
- Fun (Travel, Mr.’s fun money, Mrs.’s fun money, Mr.’s camera fund, gifts) -$114/ $725. WHAT?! Last month was particularly high in this category if you recall. This was because we paid for a couple of things and were expecting money back from people. And TaDa. This month we are actually negative, which means we earned more money back in these categories then we spent. I like these kind of numbers. For the year we are under budget on all of these categories except for Travel, which is expected. The Travel costs generally occur at the beginning of the year as we plan for later trips.
- Additional Income: $11.48. This is a random assortment of checks, interest and other sundries that came in this month. Unexpected money is a plus! We reinvest all our dividends, etc. so those don’t get counted in this roundup.
Another great month on the books.
Now, let’s take a look at the money-shot numbers.
Total March 2015 income: $11,634.69 (My yearly bonus didn’t hurt!)
Total March 2015 expenses: $4,339.65 (not counting the refinance costs), $7788.62 if we include them
This means our total March 2015 Take Home Savings Rate came in at: 62%. WOW! We again broke the 50% mark (though with a bonus so I don’t know if this counts plus we took a bunch out of savings for the refinance)
And our March 2015 Total Savings Rate: 73% (includes maxing out our 401ks). And broke the 70% mark but again with the bonus so probably shouldn’t count
Our net worth: $544,485.48. We’re having some organization issues with accounts and as you can see in the plans below we hope to get everything streamlined next month.
We’re doing great! Just gotta keep on keeping on.
Our Plans for March were to Keep Saving by:
- Switch garbage providers (moved forward from February). Still haven’t gotten to this. The refi took quite a bit of this month. I WILL do this in April.
- Look into grooming the dogs on our own. At least Penny, our boxer mix. We’re going to purchase a Dremel tool to take care of her nails on our own. Patti is a poodle and needs to be washed, brushed and trimmed. We’re sending her to the groomer one last time this month (she’s pretty grimy) and then we’re going to attempt it on our own. Wish us luck! Found the tools. Purchasing in April and then we shall see.
- Try to decrease our spending on water by only running loads of laundry when they are full (Hubby is a laundry-doing fiend) and decreasing shower lengths. Dropped the water bill by a few dollars. We’ll keep trying!
Our Plans for April are:
- That dang garbage!
- Decreasing electricity as much as possible (changing out light bulbs, keeping garage closed etc.). 100 degree days are coming fast and so the AC will necessarily have to start running even though we set the thermostat at a relatively high 80 when we are home.
- Get our act together and our accounts consolidated to eliminate any confusion of what our net worth is and make this process easier next month!
Another adventure awaits!
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.