Monthly Review: August and September 2016

Welcome to our monthly review! Every month or two I review the progress we’ve made on our goals and any frugal hacks I’m trying out. Older updates can be found here. The background on our money journey so far can be found here.

Goal Progress: The Emergency Fund

Mr. Steward and I are working (for a second time) on saving up an emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of expenses. The magic number is $15,000.

Balance on July 31: 10,675.95

Balance on August 31: 12,325.95

Change: 1650

Balance on September 30: 12925.95

Change: 600

Monthly progress looks down for September, since Mr. Steward didn’t get paid until the 30th (so I couldn’t transfer our monthly contribution until October). It only means October is looking up! We’re so close, but after September’s daycare reimbursement (which will be accounted for in next month’s monthly review), the amount we are contributing will drop pretty significantly. That said, we are still on track to finish before the year is out, barring any emergencies. And, there are some extra check months coming up… We have to get cracking on deciding what to do next!

Improvements

  • Moved to Cricket Wireless: The switch is saving us $42 a month, or a bit over $500 a year. Um, yeah, I’ll definitely take it.

The Do-Betters

  • Fast and Loose in Budget Town: This month really drove home just how much we play with our budget’s sinking funds. We often “overdraw” the funds (not literally, but in Mint), with the intention of allowing it to catch back up over the next few months. This poses no real monetary problem, as we have plenty of buffer in our accounts. Thinking back, though, I know we have a tendency to catch a category up ahead of schedule because we subsequently dislike seeing the budget line “overdrawn.” I suspect that means that we spend more in certain categories than we think. I’d rather move to a more hard-and-fast model, in which we only spend what is already there, in the coming year.

Frugal Experiments

  • Free Activities: I’ve been focusing on enjoying free community activities with Bean. Over the past couple of months we’ve done some walking in local nature preserves, visited the park numerous times, and stopped by the splash pad on its final day. We get Mommy and Bean time, Mr. Steward gets quiet alone time, and I feel good about exposing her to new activities and exercise (and get out of the house myself). I’m curious to see if we can continue the trend as winter forces us indoors.
  • Spending Money Tracking: Inspired by a combo of re-reading portions of Your Money or Your Life and Desirae’s post about tracking spending on Half/Banked, I’ve begun writing down every penny of my spending money that I spend in a Field Notes notebook. It’s proven, already, to be quite the deterrent of wasteful spending. (Nary a Starbucks!) This is helping to set me up for a challenge that I’ll talk more about in the coming year.

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