How does that old saying go? March comes in like a lion…
And indeed it did! March roared in with extra expenses. Or so it seemed, until I started to put things into perspective. March was the first time this year where our only income came from my full time job. We had no bonuses from freelance work or tax refunds. We did sell a few things on eBay. Our “decluttering for cash” effort grossed $187.65 but that income will be booked into April, once all items are shipped and fees settled.
So by all accounts, this was our first chance to actually try living on 50% of our regular income. It was an interesting attempt to say the least.
First, our successes:
- We had approximately $860 in added expenses this month, which we were able to pay in full without using credit or touching our savings.
- One of those added expenses was a gift for my mom. We had her driveway leveled and poured with new gravel. This was something that she had planned to pay for herself but amid it all, her septic pump went out. That repair cost more than $1,300. On a fixed income, she couldn’t afford both so we helped with the driveway.
- Despite the extra expenses, we still managed to direct 13.5% of our income to savings and carried over 4.5% for this month.
Next, our problem areas. I won’t call them failures but these are areas that are definitely in need of improvement.
- We strayed from our cash-based spending system and as a result used our debit card 26 times. Poor planning and frequent small trips to the store helped keep our groceries, household, and misc. spending up over $600 again this month.
- I forgot to cancel our newspaper subscription after the 3-month introductory rate expired so our bill for March tripled.
If I look simply at the numbers, I could be disappointed. We definitely did not meet our goal to put 50% of our income into savings. But the chart only tells part of the story. This month we saved or carried over 18%, gifted 13%, and paid 4% out of pocket for unexpected car repairs. We also spent 5% on entertainment, which included a membership to the local indoor pool (swimming is something we sorely miss since leaving FL). Add all this together with the 7% that we had in miscellaneous spending (garden supplies, new tennis shoes, and Groupons) and you have a total of 47% of our March income that went to something other than living expenses.
When I look at March that way, I feel pretty blessed.
That being said though, April is a blank slate and I want to do a better job of curbing the discretionary spending and put more aside for savings and travel – which is this month’s focus area.