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

Rainy Day Budgeting: November 2019

For the first time in weeks, we're getting some substantial rainfall here in Northern Arizona. It's chilly, it's pouring outside, and it feels like the perfect opportunity to settle in with some coffee and write about a topic I've been neglecting lately: our budget.

(Sidenote: I wrote this yesterday. It is no longer raining, which makes this former East Coaster sad. But it was nice while it lasted.)

Making the Most of Higher Paychecks

Right now, I'm getting paid for 30 hours a week while we wrap up a big project at work, so my paychecks have been more substantial than usual. In fact, because I don't receive employer-sponsored benefits and therefore don't have any related deductions, the amount I'm earning is roughly equal to what I was making at the shitshow job back in the spring. 

That means we have a little extra money to play with and plan with.

What we're doing with it:

1. Celebrating

As I was just sharing in a blog comment, October through December tend to be expensive months for us. We've got two birthdays, an anniversary, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For the past couple of holiday seasons, we've tried hard to limit our spending, and without fail, we've... kind of failed. We've found that it's far more difficult to tighten our belts at the end of the year than it is in, say, March.

We don't go overboard with presents, but we like to gift things that our loved ones will truly value and that will last for a long time. Oftentimes, those items come with a higher price tag. The hammock that Fortysomething gave me for my birthday is a good example: it was expensive, but it's a high-quality product that should last for years. 

We also tend to spend more than usual on food during the holidays. I used to look at other people's food budgets and feel bad for how much we allocate in this category, but I'm over it. We buy the food, we share the food, we eat all the food, and we enjoy the food.

You'll see. Our food line item is high.

Anyway, in 2019, I'm facing facts: we're going to spend. It's okay. I'll be realistic and build it into the budget.

2. Saving

I also want to make sure we're socking away some of our extra money while we have the opportunity. In January, my hours will drop back down to 20 per week, I'll make approximately $800/month less, and we'll be saving much less - maybe $100 per month, unless I find a higher-paying job or ramp up my Rover business again.

I'm always going back and forth on where to put our savings. Regular checking account? 401K? My little IRA? Although it's likely we'll increase Fortysomething's investment contributions in the next month or two, for now, we're being boring and putting the savings into our bank account. There's a part of me that still feels like I'm on slightly shaky employment ground, and I want to be able to access cash easily if we need to dip into our savings.

A Word About Rent: Can We Do Anything About It?

You know what bothers me more than our food budget?

Our rent.

As much as I appreciate the perks of where we live (walkable, close to Fortysomething's work, beautiful location) and renting in general (we don't have to maintain anything, and we don't spend our weekends fixing stuff), the amount we pay in rent is a thorn in my side. I am never going to be okay with it.

I've written before about why we choose to rent our place and why renting something cheaper isn't much of an option for us: one, even the least expensive rentals here aren't that much cheaper, and two, I can't deal with shared walls due to extreme noise sensitivity (blocky apartment complexes are out; in our current duplex, the only wall we share is in the kitchen).

Also, right now we can get away with having just one car. If Fortysomething had to drive to work, we'd need to consider a second vehicle.


We're trying to figure out if buying property is an option for us and whether it would save us money (or at least allow us to avoid yearly rent hikes). Whether we can get a home loan on 1.5 incomes that would allow us to buy something that isn't totally falling apart is questionable, but we're looking into VA and USDA loans, which may increase our purchasing power a bit.

That said, I periodically obsess over "should we buy?" and then drop it. Who knows if we'll actually make any progress here. But we're likely to have a rent hike in May, so if we're going to avoid it by moving into our own place, we need to start taking action now.

Anyway, Here's The Budget

Item Budget

Internet 65
Phone  80
Car Insurance 64
Student Loan 400
Campground Membership 108
Gas/electric/utilities  151
Food 850
Gas in car 40
Cat 40
Netflix/Hulu 27
Miscellaneous 400
Donation 30
Savings 725
Health Insurance 340

Pretty standard, right? Other than Miscellaneous (which is higher than usual due to a birthday and our anniversary) and Savings, everything else is typical of how we allocate our money every month. I will admit that we re-upped Hulu, so that line item increased a bit. Health insurance also increased somewhat because I added vision insurance to my short-term insurance package.

How's your November budget looking? Does your budget change at the end of the year, or do you run a pretty tight ship, unlike us?

1 comment:

  1. I hope the house & mortgage hunting go well, friend, if that's what you decide to do. If you ever get the itch to look down in Tempe, I know a couple of people who would be happy to beat the pavement looking for deals. ;)

    November is a 3 paycheck month for us each year, but it also is apparently when we have to pay all our property taxes & budget for Christmas, so it's a pretty spendy month for us, too.