A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

March Budget Review: How'd We Do?

Happy end-of-March, beginning-of-April, early spring! How are your budgets looking?

Springtime at the Grand Canyon
To be honest, ours is a bit worse for the wear. Although we didn't totally break the bank this month, we did come in over budget by about $60. I'm cringing because this was a three-paycheck month and I feel like we should have been able to stick to our plan.

Let's break it down (see end of the post for a comparison of budget vs. what actually happened):

Where we aced it: Rent, insurance, phone, Netflix, debt repayment - we're all good here. I'm giving us an A+ for taxes, dental bill, new bed, and savings, too. Some of our expenses - the bed in particular - were pricy, but they were also planned.  Go us!

Utilities and Internet *look* like they're on the money, but in reality I didn't have the budget for these set in stone until the middle of the month. That's because we were paying for both the old apartment and the new place, and until the bills actually rolled in, we were in the dark about how much they'd cost.

Note that our budget for debt repayment was lower this month to offset other costs such as our insanely high utility bill and to accommodate lingering moving expenses. In April, we'll be allocating $1600 to debt repayment, with $1000 going towards credit card debt. Woohoo!

New House Views
Where we strayed: We exceeded our grocery budget... again. By over $100. I feel I need to put in a disclaimer that we actually do eat everything we buy, and that we tend to purchase healthy, fresh food. We also use coupons pretty religiously. Three reasons we're struggling somewhat in the food department (excuses, excuses!):
  • Food is expensive here. We're not a prime agricultural area - the growing season is short and the soil is poor - so much of what we find in the grocery store is imported from other parts of the state or country, thus ramping up prices.
  • My husband and son eat a lot. Fortysomething walks/runs at least 50 miles a week. The Kiddo is in a growth spurt. Both seem to be bottomless pits of caloric need.
  • We could put more effort into looking for deals. We don't shop around much; we use one store and call it good.
Before anyone waxes poetic about the wonders of Aldi, we don't have one here in the great state of Arizona. Trader Joe's, you might ask? Nope. Not in our city. It's an enduring mystery: why would you not have a TJs in a hippy-dippy college town?

The fruit bowl never stays this full for long.
We were also over by $68 in our "Other" category, the one we reserve for dinners out and spur-of-the-moment purchases. Miscellaneous buys in March included Dominoes pizza, a father-son IHOP breakfast, some minor work-related expenses, clothes for the kiddo, a haircut for Fortysomething, two more expensive meals out (admittedly, that's where we took the biggest hit), and a few odds and ends. No question we could be more frugal here.

What we'll do differently next month: Now that we are fully moved into our new place and have adjusted to our new pay schedule, I expect that in April we'll find our financial footing again. Our Internet and utility bills will be lower, and we're not planning to fork over cash for any big expenses (except medical bills for the Kiddo's recent surprise appendectomy - more on that soon! - but my HSA should cover the cost of most of our initial payments). We're going to be more restaurant-averse and go out or order in only when we have a coupon or gift certificate. Most importantly, we'll be back to our regular debt repayment plan.


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