March, 2013 Budget

We finished up tabulating our expenses for March and, as promised, are reporting how we did. Before we delve into the details, we’ll preface the results with the fact that this is our first month on a budget as full-timers. Having lived without a budget constraint for the first two months of the year, we are now trying to shake off some of the bad habits we got into during that period. Otherwise, most things seem to have been budgeted pretty accurately.

We’ll show each category, followed by the budgeted amount, then the actual amount we spent, then an explanation of the category and any anomalies that may have contributed to the actual amount.

Groceries – 400.00/599.38 – A couple of things led to the overspending in this category. First, we have a bad habit of buying expensive soft drinks and snacks at fuel stops (and Malcolm tends to do the same when he is at work), so that should help decrease “grocery” spending. Also, there might be a mis-entry or two somewhere when recording our expenditures. Overall, though, not terrible.

Entertainment – 300.00/(too embarrassed to post actual amount) – This category covers anything that could be considered entertainment such as movies (at a theater or buying them at the store, etc.), doing touristy things (Rock City, etc.) or eating out. The last part was the one where we way overspent in this category. We promised ourselves to bring the eating out part way down this next month. We’re particularly bad about being lazy and eating lunch on the road when we’re pulling the trailer (Cracker Barrel, particularly).

Laundry/Personal – 150.00/136.00 – This category includes change for coin laundries (detergent comes under groceries) and other personal items, primarily haircuts, etc. Each of us had a haircut this month. Also, even when we are at home base, we tend to use a laundromat so that we get the laundry done quicker (instead of running it up to the house and spending the day there).

Medical/Prescriptions – 150.00/398.55 – This category is way over for a couple of reasons. First, we both had teeth cleanings (140.00) that may be covered by dental insurance, but we haven’t filed the paperwork yet. We just paid for the cleanings outright. Second, we haven’t met our $500 deductible for prescriptions yet, so Malcolm’s $168 Crestor prescription has not yet become a $35 copay. We anticipated the first four months or so being over budget for this reason alone.

Miscellaneous – 300.00/685.53 – This is a catch-all category. As such, we need to go back and see what all was purchased to put this one way over budget. Some of it is probably nickel-and-dime stuff we can control. To be honest, though, we had no idea how much to budget for this category and actually may split it up some.

Fuel – 1000.00/1097.02 – We came out pretty close on fuel. This includes fuel for Val’s car when we are at home.

Camping Fees – 750.00/616.95 – We were well under budget on this one. And we even paid for a four-day stay over Labor Day in advance as well as a one-day fee for another reservation in April.

Health/Dental Insurance – 575.00/574.60 – No surprises here.

Phone/Internet – 200.00/200.00 – Stayed under our data allowance for the March bill, so this one was on track. We went over for April’s bill, so it will be over by a bit.

Propane – 35.00/109.09 – What can we say, it’s been a pretty cold winter. This is one of those categories that should average out over the long haul, though. I suspect we won’t be filling four tanks a month in the summer.

Trailer Maintenance – 100.00/469.32 – Trailer maintenance includes modifications and other items we might buy from time to time (water hoses, camping supplies, etc.). Our trailer is still under factory warranty, so no spending on fixing things. However, we did do a couple of modifications in March, namely the closet modification. As part of that modification, we also purchased an 18V DeWalt cordless circular saw ($120). That is all lumped into this category.

Truck Maintenance – 120.00/249.62 – This one is primarily over budget because Malcolm decided to order a new seat cushion for the driver’s seat. The greatly increased comfort while driving was well worth the cost (as will be prolonging the life of the fairly new leather seat cover).

Trailer Insurance – 120.00/0.00 – When we purchased insurance for our trailer in September, it was quoted at $36 a month. We made two $36 automatic payments, then no more were taken out. Upon investigation in November, we found out that the insurance company (Good Sam RV Insurance, underwritten by GMAC Insurance) had grossly under-estimated the actual premium and, instead of passing on the difference to us, ate the difference. The actual monthly rate should be 120.00, which is what we have on the budget. When they corrected everything back in November, they credited us the difference which made their system think that our monthly payments have been paid all the way up to May of this year. So March and April will have $0.00 in this category.

Truck Insurance – 50.00/50.00 – Round figure, but pretty close.

Life Insurance – 50.00/45.00 – This is 5 year level term life insurance on Malcolm. It recently dropped from $80 a month to $45 based on no tobacco use for more than a year. However, the 5 year term is up in a month or two, and the new rate will be back up in the $70’s per month. We’ll re-budget when that time comes.

Cash Back Rewards – 54.04 – Val carries a Capital One credit card* that gives 1% cash back on all purchases (13.04 in March, but accumulated over a couple of months) and Malcolm carries a Paypal debit card that gives 1.5% cash back on all purchases (41.00 in March). We just received American Express Blue Cash Preferred cards* which give 6% back on groceries, 3% back on fuel and 1% back on everything else. We’ll see how that works out.

We now have some areas to target. We’re pleased with several areas and think we can trim some spending here and there to keep things under control. We’ll see how April goes.

* Note: We are debt free and pay off our credit cards each month, using them primarily to garner the cash-back rewards and also to have multiple backups in the event of card fraud.