September 2020 Budget

September 2020 Budget

One of my favorite type of blog posts to read are other peoples monthly budget reports. I think it is so interesting to see where others are spending their money and see how we compare. It tends to motivate me to take action, whether it be by cutting our expenses more or researching different ways to increase our income.

One thing to note is that our monthly income fluctuates month to month because my husband works on commission. Therefore, you will notice that every month our budget will be slightly different. You will also notice that we do not have a line item for car payments. We used to drive two BMW’s and after starting our F.I.R.E journey, we downsized to one car that we purchased for $13,500 cash.

Here is a look at our September 2020 monthly budget…

Savings

Our savings for the month of September was 40.4%. Our personal goal every month is to have at least a 50% or more savings rate, but unfortunately that did not happen this month. Hopefully we will make up for the loss next month. We had some unexpected car expenses come up so that ate into our savings (I will go more into this under Miscellaneous). 

We are currently saving for a down payment on a house. We want to save a minimum of 20% of the house cost so we avoid private mortgage insurance. We use a completely different bank for our emergency fund/ savings that is separate from our regular checking account. Right now we have this in an account at Ally. We have contemplated on whether we should put this in an investment account, but it doesn’t make sense to do that because we will be pulling the money out next year when we buy our house. Also, we really like Ally. They have great customer service, their website is user friendly, and it only takes one business day to make transfers from our regular checking account. On the date that I posted this, their current APY (annual percentage yield) is 0.60%. When we originally signed up it was almost 2.00%. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their rates quite significantly. We are still happy with them and plan on using Ally for our emergency fund for years to come.

Rent

Our rent came to 21.4%. We are currently renters and plan on buying a house when our lease is up next year. We have been renters for seven years and to be honest, we love it. We love the convenience if being able to call the maintenance guy whenever something is broken, instead of having to shell out our own cash to hire someone and fix it. We love our neighbors, the apartment itself is in a great location (close to the main freeway and downtown area), my sister lives in the same building so I get to visit her anytime, but the only down side is that rent goes up every year. I really do not like not knowing how much our biggest monthly expense is going to be year to year. Therefore, we plan on buying a house by June 2021. The average home price where we live is over $500,000. Although we can afford a half a million dollar house by the average American standards, our goal is to reach FIRE and retire by 2028. We are contemplating on moving out of state where housing costs are more affordable, but all of our friends and family live here, we grew up here, and our life is here. Is it worth moving away from friends and family if it means a better financial future? I plan on making an entire blog post about this soon. Feel free to send me your thoughts and suggestions. It would truly be appreciated.

Giving

Our giving this month was 9.9%. To be honest, it normally is not this high, but we were feeling rather generous the month of September. One of our goals after we reach FIRE is to give a minimum of 10% every month towards our church and various other causes we really care about. We also include small gifts and the cost of making meals for friends and family in the Giving category. One of my favorite ways to show our love and appreciation is through good food and association. We like to have friends and family over for a delicious meal and show them we love and appreciate them by not only cooking for them, but also giving them more of our time, because at the end of the day, time is our greatest asset. 

This month we had about twelve of our cousins over and I made them a Japanese hotpot called Chanko Nabe. The broth was made up of chicken bones, onions, garlic, ginger, green onions, and white miso simmered on low heat for about three hours. The toppings included jumbo shrimp, manilla clams, cod fish, thinly sliced beef and pork, homemade chicken meatballs, and a whole lot of fresh vegetables and noodles. And to top it off I made a homemade chili dipping sauce that provided the perfect sweetness and acidity to this savory dish. Here is a picture below…

Looks good doesn’t it?
This was our table setting.

The total cost of this meal was $177. I know this seems like a lot, but this fed 14 grown adults including two kids ($11.06 per person). I bought the freshest ingredients and had a ton left over, which fed my husband and myself for three additional days. And most importantly, we had an amazing time with family so it was worth every penny. 

Internet

Our internet was 0.9% of our total budget. To be honest, I am not completely happy with our internet service. My husband and I have both started working from home since March 2020 due to the pandemic, and our internet occasionally cuts in an out. Maybe it has to do with the unusually high number of people working from home? Not sure. Since we live in an apartment complex we are obligated to use the internet provider that is contracted with the apartment complex. As soon as we move, we are shopping for a different internet provider. Any affordable suggestions?

Cell Phones

Our cell phone budget was about 1.5%. The FIRE community highly recommends using Republic Wireless because you can get a plan for as cheap as $15 a month. How incredible! I have researched them and they seem like a reputable company that provides great service. However, I am almost embarrassed to say that I am an Apple lover. I own the iPhone, MacBook, iPad, pretty much everything Apple. My husband loves android and has convinced me to switch to android when we first got married and I did not like it at all. My phone was incredibly slow and not user friendly. Unfortunately, Republic Wireless doesn’t provide service for Apple products, so we are currently T-mobile. However, as soon as Republic Wireless adds iPhones to their list of compatible phones, we will be the first in line to sign up.

Gas

Our gas came to 1.8% this month. We share one car and we both currently work from home due to the pandemic, so our gas usage has significantly gone down. I should also tell you that we own a diesel seven seater SUV. This is completely the opposite of what the FIRE community recommends you get. However, this was our personal choice. For one, my husband has terrible lower back pain and driving an SUV has significantly reduced his discomfort while driving. Before when we had a standard five seater car, my husband wasn’t even able to drive 30 minutes without feeling some sort of pain in his back. Although we do not have kids, we have a big extended family that we like to take on occasional road trips. I am also an avid snowboarder and love an SUV when driving through the mountains. It feels safer and I like the extra space an SUV provides. It is simply our personal preference to have an SUV versus a hybrid Prius.

But why did you get diesel you ask? When we were looking for an SUV we were desperate and needed a car asap. Our previous vehicle was on her last leg and continued to have issues with the alternator. It got so bad to the point where it wouldn’t even start on several occasions. We looked everyday online to see what was on the market and this car was perfect! It literally checked all our boxes and had everything we were looking for, except the fact it was diesel. But you know what? Our local gas stations sell diesel fuel for cheaper than regular gas! We were completely stoked about this. So all in all, win win for us.

On a side note, we used to drive two BMW’s where the minimum payments were $947 a month. *gasps!* I know… I know. What were we thinking? Well, we weren’t. We now have zero car payments and we throw all that extra cash straight into our savings.

Groceries

Our groceries came to about 1.8% of our total budget this month. We spend about $125 per person on groceries a month. I am pretty good at keeping our grocery budget fairly low. I did the math and we spend about $2 per meal per person. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it tends to stay right around the $2 per meal mark. I don’t meal plan, I don’t meal prep, and I don’t coupon clip. I used to do all that, but I do not enjoy it and it is a complete time suck for me. I have 10 simple rules I follow that helps keep our grocery cost consistently low. I plan on posting what these rules are within a few days, so stay tuned!

Restaurants

Our restaurant line item came to about 1.8%. Before we started our financial journey, we used to easily spend over a $1,000 a month on going out to eat. Yikes! We would go out without really even thinking. I am happy to report that we do not spend like this anymore, but we did create a small monthly budget for restaurants because we truly enjoy the experience. I would say we eat out maybe once or twice a week now and we call it our weekly date nights. I love getting dolled up. I enjoy putting on my make-up, doing my hair, wearing a pretty dress, and having a romantic dinner with my husband. We also enjoy visiting the newest brewery, going wine tasting, and splitting nachos and beer at the local pub.

I also get a lot of inspiration when we eat out. It gets my creative juices flowing and motivates me to try something new in our own kitchen. We once ordered a seafood stew called a Cioppino at a restaurant and oh my goodness… it was absolutely incredible! It not only looked like a piece of art, but it also tasted spectacular. I looked up different recipes online, put my own creative twist on it, invited some friends over, and had a jolly good time. And I have got to say, although it was my first time making it, my Cioppino tasted so good! I think it has to do with the extra cup of white wine I put in the stew. 

Car Insurance

Our full coverage car insurance came to roughly 1.1% this month. We get a pretty good rate since we only have one car and we both have good driving records. We currently pay this on a monthly basis, but I think we are going to start paying the full six months up front, that way we can remove it from our month budget line item.

Life Insurance

This came to 0.9% this month. Life Insurance is crucial guys. If there are other people that depend on your income, especially if you are married or have kids, you needed to get life insurance yesterday. Let me tell you a quick story…


There was a beautiful young family who lived happily in a house in the suburbs. The husband had a successful job as a software engineer at a large corporation, and the wife was a stay at home mom to their sweet three year old daughter. The wife and husband recently found out they were expecting their second child and they could not be happier. They told all their friends, family, and had a big party to celebrate. Life could not get any better.

One day, the husband woke up to some pain in his abdomen, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle so he ignored it. As the days went on, the pain continued to get worse and worse, to the point where he could barely stand up. He finally decided to go to the emergency room. The whole family got in the car and drove to the nearest hospital and after waiting several hours, they were finally seen by a doctor. After taking several tests, they were asked to go home and wait for the test results which will be ready in one week. They patiently waited, but their anxiety was getting the best of them. Finally, a week later they received a call from their doctor. He said, ‘There is no easy way to tell you this, but we found something in your test results. You have stage four stomach cancer. I am so sorry…” They broke down in tears and simply held each other.

Four months later, the husband passed away leaving behind his wife, his three year old daughter, and his unborn child. He was only 35 year old. Since he was the sole income earner and did not have life insurance, his wife struggled to provide financially for their two children for years to come.


This is a true story about my friend. To say that she was completely devastated is an understatement. It is one thing to grieve the loss of your husband, but it’s another thing to grieve the loss of your husband, while having to worry about your families financial future. No matter how young and healthy you are, you cannot predict what’s going to happen. Protect your family and get life insurance.

After we found out what happened to my friend, my husband and I signed up for term life insurance the very next day. We each got a one million dollar term life policy that cost less than $72 for the both of us. We got ours from Zander because they provided us a compiled list of the cheapest life insurance quotes on the market, without having to search various websites.

Miscellaneous

Our Miscellaneous line item came to 7.4% this month. This is not normal and more than what we are used to. As we mentioned earlier, we had an unexpected car maintenance expense come up. The battery in our car died so we had to get it towed to the nearest shop and got the battery replaced. We were not happy, but it was our fault. We knew it needed to be replaced for some time and we never did it. Costly lesson? I think so. 

The Miscellaneous line item also includes random expenses such as my husbands deodorant, cat food, windshield wipers, contacts, and post stamps. Any little random expenses will fall into this category.

Fun Money

Last but not least, the Fun Money. This came to about 9.9% this month. I know what you are thinking, “9.9 percent!? That seems high.” Well, let me explain.

My husband is a natural spender and I am a natural saver. As a way to combat this, we have both agreed upon a monthly discretionary amount that we each get to spend. I used to be a bit neurotic and get on him about every energy drink he bought at the gas station and every vitamin he bought at Super Supplements. Oh, bless his heart.

I personally use my fun money to grab drinks with my girl friends or to purchase the occasional clothing item, but my guilty pleasure is definitely skincare products. I enjoy taking care of my skin by using high quality retinol, moisturizers, vitamin C, serums, exfoliators, and sunscreen. Unfortunately, skincare products are not cheap. I try to only buy them when they’re on sale or use online discount codes. However, I do my own nails, cut my own hair, do home facials, do my own lash extensions, and use mainly drugstore cosmetics, so this is how I justify splurging on skincare.

ACTION STEPS

What is the point of accumulating knowledge that will benefit you if you do not apply them? Well let me tell you… absolutely nothing! I challenge you to complete the following items.

  • If you don’t already have a budget, start now. Write down your monthly income and expenses and keep track of how much you spend. I personally use the EveryDollar app to track our monthly spending. It’s easy to use and it’s free to download.
  • Look at your monthly budget and see where you can cut. Are you spending too much on groceries? Eating out? Car insurance? Monthly subscriptions?
  • Get term life insurance. Shop around and see what is available on the market. We personally used Zander to find our term life insurance policy.

Feel free to leave me a comment or an email.

– Ann

Read my other posts…

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