July Budget Recap – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
This month involved some tough learning for us in the budget department. It was a bit of a slap into “don’t get too comfortable” reality. I want to end on the exciting positive, but first some guilty admissions. I might sound a little dramatic. We didn’t have any emergencies occur, just plain overindulgence. Maybe this is why I haven’t been posting as much? Because I knew we were living in a way that didn’t feel right? I’m not sure, but we’re definitely going to get our booties back in gear.
It’s July 25th, and I have that feeling. The lurching in my stomach of not knowing how much money is in our checking account. The thought that I think we get paid this week, but that I know we have bills left, and we need to buy groceries. The the guilt of “how did I let myself feel this way?” There is reassurance in our savings account(s), but the weight of guilt that we really shouldn’t be touching those funds. When we were traveling home, we needed to withdraw cash to pay a toll (this toll ONLY takes cash) and it was the middle of nowhere so cash back checking wasn’t an option. Quickly, I decided to swallow that fear and logged into our bank account. There was only $87 available. This is technically a good thing on a zero based budget, but we had a much bigger buffer intended than what we’d ended up with. We also had to pay a stupid tax: an ATM withdrawal of $20 cost $23.50. The ATM charged us $2, and our credit union charged $1.50!
The Ugly (and Embarrassing)
In short, we overspent beyond our budget a LOT this month. There was travel over two weekends that we didn’t really budget for. We just sort of went and didn’t worry about it, thinking to ourselves that we did up our restaurant fund. Which is true, we did this, but not nearly enough. I also didn’t account how much more gas money we would be going through, or the fact that we’ve had the air conditioning on every day. In short, we slipped up. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but we totally did. In fact, the story of overspending got much worse when I went to log into my work’s “view my paycheck” application. I was thinking that my quarterly bonus would be coming up soon. My heart sank and my stomach felt sick the moment the webpage lit up. My bonus had already come with the past paycheck. Scratch that. My bonus had already come and gone. I felt sick. That was about $600 that didn’t have a name, wasn’t in our budget, and “magically went away.” We ate and drank our way through my bonus without even realizing it. Shame doesn’t even begin to cover how I was feeling. That should’ve been included in our budget to go towards our Baby Step 3 goal, and we didn’t even realize it was there! I beat myself up about it, but this was a wakeup call that we need to keep ourselves in check.
Another thing we have really (and I mean really) been struggling with is not knowing what we want in a future home. Specifically, the location of a home. Housing is at an all-time high right now, and we aren’t sure we can afford what we really want or how timing would work out. So then the question becomes: should we rent longer? Or should we buy a starter home? Honestly, I don’t really want to buy a starter home (quick disclaimer: yes this would be with a proper down payment per Dave’s recommendations etc.). It seems like a decent amount of risk and I’m not sure about the area in general. We want to ideally purchase a fixer-upper on a lake (ON. Not near.) which still don’t come cheap. So basically, we are really conflicted, and not knowing what we want makes it harder to focus on saving. When we were in Baby Step 2, the goal was 100% clear: PAY OFF ALL DEBT. Be debt free. We were gazelle intense and had a goal with a finish line that was far away but obvious. Baby Step 3 is pretty clear too: Enough $$ to cover 3-6 months of expenses. But this house goal? It isn’t clear. We don’t even know where we are running. Do we need a $10K down payment? Or a $100K? Do we tighten our budget back to nothing again to buckle down on a down payment? Do we live relaxed and happy with renting? We don’t know. Do we attempt to flip a house and move? Could that cause us to be stuck in a home we don’t love? We don’t know and it’s causing us to spin our wheels.
The good budget news? Yes, there is some good news!…
We still made progress on Baby Step 3 and we are officially HALFWAY to our (newly increased) goal fully funded emergency fund! We decided to raise it up a couple thousand because we have such a cheap rental and can’t count on rent always being this low. This is really exciting and is giving us some more motivation to get through Baby Step 3. After that? Well, you read my thoughts. We need some time and thought and discussion to decide what we want for our family. If you have any helpful tips or stories about buying your first home, please let me know.
Note: there are no affiliate links in this post. Just some shame and embarrassment.
Hi, my name is Rachel Smith. I’m a personal finance nerd, Aldi connoissuer, book lover, yoga enthusiast, and budgeting wiz. I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska but currently call Michigan home. I want to help people with their finances and eating healthy on a tight budget (no matter what your cost-of-living area is!)