Club Thrifty May Budget Breakdown: I Want to Cry


Apparently, my new backyard needs mulch. Who comes up with this stuff?

Unfortunately, April was not a cheap month for the Johnson household.  However, it was mainly due to the fairly-frugal vacation we took to Florida and the expenses that resulted from it.  On the other hand, our vacation budget was an epic fail.  I budgeted $600 for gas to Florida and back, groceries, and entertainment, and we went over by $124!  I guess that isn’t so bad, but we could’ve done better.  I know I certainly could’ve done without a few of the delicious meals we enjoyed.  I haven’t weighed myself, but I’m feeling a little chunky today.  Boooooooooooo….

Anyway, I did our zero-sum budget for May last month and nearly cried.  I thought we were out of the woods with heavy-spending, but it’s not even close.  First, let me share the dirty details, okay?  Then I will explain.  Try not to hit me.

Club Thrifty May Budget Breakdown

  • Mortgage: $1,500
  • Groceries: $500
  • Daycare: $750
  • Internet: $50
  • College L: $55
  • College V: $25
  • Gas/Misc: $200
  • Cell Phone: $55
  • Health Insurance: $394
  • Electric: $25
  • Gas: $40
  • Sewer: $30
  • Water: $35
  • Garage Repair: $300
  • Mulch: $200
  • Birthdays: $150
  • Las Vegas: $600
  • SEP IRA: $1,000
  • Roth IRA: $1,000

Total $6,909

Budgeting Gone Wild

As you can see, there are a bunch of weird and unusual expenses on my budget this month.  Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp!  It’s making me crazy.  However, there is a logical explanation for each one of them:

  • Our mortgage is not anywhere close to $1,500.  I could pay less, but I want to pay that thing off….and quick!
  • The garage door springs snapped at one of our rental properties, and we went ahead and had a few other repairs done in the meantime.  The total cost: $300.  Ouch.
  • Our new yard is really great, but it does have a lot of landscaping.  Our back yard desperately needs new mulch, so I think we’ve decided to alternate adding mulch to the front and back yards from year to year.  This year we’ll do the back yard and next year we’ll do the front, if needed.  I told ya, I’m seriously keeping up with the Joneses this year when it comes to my yard.  Not.
  • My youngest child turns 3 in June, and we’re having a joint birthday party for both of our kids at the end of this month.  Is that tacky?  Anyway, the $150 I budgeted should cover a few presents for my youngest child and food and drinks for the party.  I’m going to make the cupcakes myself and go low-budget for the whole thing, so I think $150 should do it.
  • A few weeks ago, I wrote about how we’re going to Las Vegas I know, I know.  It doesn’t sound frugal at all, but here’s the thing: Our flights were free and we paid around $200 total for three nights in the hotel.  On top of that, we’ve budgeted $600 for meals, drinks, and entertainment while we’re there.  That equals out to $100 per person, per day to spend on whatever we want whether it’s beer, gambling, hookers, or whatever.  There are no rules here, folks.  SPOILER ALERT: My crystal ball tells me that Greg will lose all his money playing craps and eat bagels off of the free breakfast buffet for three days.

Overall, it’s going to be a fairly expensive month.  However, that’s exactly why I create these budgets, and why zero-sum budgeting is so important to begin with.  If we didn’t write this out each month and plan our spending, we may never know how much money we’re blowing through.  And that, my friends, is scary as hell.  I would rather be confronted with the cold, hard truth than live a life of denial, am I right?

Do you freak out when you have an expensive month?  Do you think anything on this month’s budget is crazy?


  1. says

    I freak out a little sometimes when I have an overly expensive month, even when I know it’s coming, it still sucks. I don’t like paying out a lot of money at once. I think you are doing great though an the trips are worth it :)

  2. says

    You had a great time, that’s what counts! Amazing how much mulch costs isn’t it? I used to do it on the cheap by buying those $2 bag ones from Home Depot. The color was so eye catching that you didn’t notice it was quite thin..better to hide the weeks too :0) . I never freak out when l go over budget, it always seems to even out the next month. Free bagels at the!

  3. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says

    Not tacky to have joint parties. My sister purposely had her kids 8 days apart for that reason! She has their party in the weekend between!

    To save on alcohol in Vegas, don’t buy if with your meals. Imbibe while playing games. You only have to tip! They like you nice and drunk when ur playing so you keep giving them money, so the lovely cocktail waitress are serving up free drinks. Loss leader!

    • says

      Oh yeah, that’s the plan! The last time we were in Vegas, we ordered two Long Islands at a bar and it was $23. I learned my lesson! haha!

  4. says

    Haha best sub-title to a budget breakdown post ever! I don’t freak out when we have a bad month, mainly because it typically comes from unexpected things like broken garage door springs (which it looks like you dealt with this month!) that I have little to no control over.

  5. Brian says

    We just spend $500 on flights to Vegas. We decided to go pretty last minute (we leave 5/16). But my wife really wanted to go out and see her dad before she pops out this baby. It also means I’ll get to use up a few of my southwest drink coupons that were going to expire at the end of the month.

    If it wasn’t Las Vegas, I would be fairly impressed if you drank $100 worth of beer a day, but if you actually buy beer there it can get a little pricey. Probably why I drink my whiskey diet cokes all day while I pretend to gamble.

  6. says

    We’re also having two expensive months in a row, but a bunch of last month’s will eventually be reimbursed by dh’s work because of business travel. This past month the ac people finally billed us.

  7. says

    We had a few expensive months lately due to car repairs. We didn’t foresee them and so it was hard to budget for them. Luckily we have a car fund with a bit of money in it that we could use. The rest just came from ratcheting down on other stuff like going out for dinner, coffees, or buying lunch at work.

  8. says

    You probably know this already, but the sheer discipline of tracking the fails ensures they become fewer, compared to people who just lurch from fail to fail, and never know what happened when they’re wiped out.

    Also, thanks for pointing out (actions speaking louder than words) that being frugal doesn’t mean “no fun.”

    Good job, and thanks for sharing!

  9. says

    We had a terrible budgeting month when we went to Las Vegas. I just kept reminding myself that there’s always next month…

  10. says

    I don’t freak out myself, but I still hate when we have expensive months. That’s where we’re at this month as we just bought new couches for the family room. I hate spending the cash when I know it could go to much better things, but at least we had it budgeted and got quality couches that should last us a good long while. As for $124 over on vacation, I’m usually much worse. :)

    • says

      My property taxes are paid through an escrow account in my mortgage. They are paid in May and November, but not directly by me.

      I pay life insurance quarterly and car insurance twice per year. Those things do make it on my budget but only in the month they are due. This month is one where I don’t have to pay any of them! =)

  11. says

    I’m guessing it’s part of your zero-sum budget, but I don’t count savings line items in my budget since it’s not spending. That means your spending for the month is “only” $4,909, which isn’t that crazy considering all the things you’re doing this month. I also separate out extra principal payments to the mortgage as savings, rather than in my budget.

    My April was just over $4k, but I had to pay the first half of my property taxes for the year. May should be much better.

    • says

      Yeah, I put them on my budget because I pay them as a regular bill. And since I’m self-employed, I have to pay them like a regular bill vs. having them taken out of my paycheck. I should probably separate out extra mortgage payments too, but I’m lazy in that respect!

      But you’re right, it isn’t as bad as it looks.

  12. says

    We also had a crazy-expensive month due to the vacation (though the costs are spread out over 3 months due to timing of credit card bills and such), plus renewing the car insurance. We came back intending for life to be cheap, but need to replace the truck windshield, a wiper blade and get the tires swapped over to summers, so things could add up there pretty quickly.
    We’ve got a long weekend trip and wedding in May, but most of the costs related to that are paid already.

  13. says

    Hopefully you can get a good deal on mulch! We just went the frugal route with $2/bag mulch for our yard. We bought a little extra in case we need to do touch ups through out the summer.

  14. says

    We really need to keep better track of our budget. We’re frugal and spend below our means, but it is still good to see where the money is going. And I’m jealous of the travel! I want to go away too! It’s tough since my wife started a new job and it’s hard to take time off…plus I don’t know about flying with a little baby. Road trip this summer maybe.

  15. says

    It doesn’t look that bad! Vacations, birthdays, some landscaping and repairs, worthwhile things to spend on! I’m sure it will even out in the later months. May is shaping up to be another expensive month, as we’ll be paying a visit to the DMV to get our licenses, registrations and all that stuff. This will be the first time we’re paying property tax on our cars, too.

  16. says

    I think this is scary for you, but typical in life. It is near impossible to have the same exact budget every single month. Our financial costs do not break up evenly between 12 months. At least you know what you are in for, you have planned for it and you can either work harder through the month to make more or save more next month.

  17. says

    May is shopping out to be an insanely expensive month for us too when you add in three birthdays, mother’s day, travel to see the birthday people, and some charity things we planned on doing when I was still working full-time! YIKES. But we’ll get through, Holly! One expensive month won’t be too horrible, right?

  18. says

    I read your blog because it’s so inspiring to me. Last year I was on a budget and this year… not so much. My fiance and I keep making up excuses but we’ve got to get on the ball. I just have no clue what to do to kick myself in the butt about it. Maybe I should start blogging about it again to keep myself in check… any tips?

    • says

      YES. Blogging about my successes and failures helps me be accountable for my actions. I’m sure you will feel the same!

      I’m also a visual person and I like to see the cold, hard facts in black and white. Know what I mean? You might find that you’re the same if you start writing it all down.

  19. says

    You know, I don’t think anything in your budget is crazy. I’d want to pay my mortgage off faster too. I hear splitting it up into bi-weekly payments attacks interest rates that compound daily. Have you heard of that process? Also, the vacation sounds awesome, and wow, you did it right! Most people would spend thousands of dollars on a trip to Vegas. Have an awesome time!

    • says

      Yeah, I get mailers about bi-weekly mortgage payments all the time. The problem is that they want me to pay for the privilege.

  20. says

    Have you ever considered using the rubber mulch for your house? It’s more expensive but it’s supposed to last 5-7 years, just based on the time spent on landscape work alone it might be worth it. I used it in the front of our house. We are on Summer #3 and still going strong.

    • says

      I haven’t but I will check that out. I estimated $200 but hoped it would be high. I would love mulch that lasts 5-7 years!

  21. Meghan says

    I just got some Diet Coke and vodka up my nose from that comment about Greg, craps, and free food. Just thought I’d share. Hilarious!

  22. says

    Greg could always swipe someone’s name tag from a random convention and go in and eat the food. That might actually be fun depending on the convention…..

    If we can hit all our retirement savings goals, I really don’t freak out when big expenses come along. I have to put in a new furnace/air conditioning unit in the commercial rental next month, and it hurts, but it will make it worth more when we decide to sell it at some point. Also, it was a great reason to get a new Ink Plus card and take advantage of the bonus! Yes, I can always find a positive!

    • says

      I LOVE it when I can time a big expense with a rewards card.

      I also signed up for the Ink Plus- already had the Bold. Woot!

  23. says

    Last month was a pretty expensive month for me, my younger sister asked me some money for her motorcycle maintenance, she needs to replace a new tires, changed an oil and need to bring it to the shop. And I also paid for her summer tuition fee.

  24. kim says

    Okay, Holly, I finally took your advice and started the zero sum budget as of last December for the entire 2014 budget. It has been working fantastically, and I can report complete success! I think you’re on to something here (ha!). I’m a high wage earner, so I budget about 70% of my earnings for savings/investments and budget about 30% for life. I have one house paid off and am currently working on the other. You’ve now inspired me to bring “life” expenses down to 15% per month (which may require me to sell–good time anyway, everything “appears” to be on the up and up, though it’s certainly not). I just wanted to chime in and say *thanks* and remind you (for those burned out dreary days that always come with writer’s block) that you are helping someone out there in the interwebs–you affirm with witty class and Midwest style. Thanks for you daily toil, and don’t forget to make the Nine Fine Irishmen when you hit Vegas. I do so know you will thank me back. Small favors…it’s all we got. WOOT! Have some freakin’ wild fun! You are never as young as you are…today.

    • says

      Wow! What an awesome comment!

      I can’t believe that you’re saving so much. You are totally killing it! I can’t imagine where you’ll be in five years if you can continue to save that much of your income!!!!!!

      I will definitely hit up the Nine Fine Irishmen- sounds like a blast and I literally have nothing to do while I’m there!!!!!

  25. says

    Seems like your biggest expenses after the accelerated mortgage payment are retirement savings. That’s a good thing. Something like broken garage door springs is exactly what an emergency fund is for. As far as your trip to Vegas… well, I won’t say a thing, other than good luck and have fun.

  26. says

    I think you did just fine! I love that you still paid extra on your mortgage. You went over budget a little, but you did take a vacation. It happens! You still added extra to your mortgage and invested in your retirement. It was just a slightly “off” month. You still did great though! :)

    As far as the issue with your rental property, I understand that! At least it was only $300, could have been worse I suppose.

    • says

      It definitely could’ve been worse. I didn’t think about it at the time, but someone could’ve been severely injured when the spring snapped!

  27. says

    I don’t freak out if any given month is expensive. Odd expenses pop up from time to time that you just have to deal with. That’s why we have emergency funds. I would only get concerned if the trend continued for at least 3 months…then I’d take a closer look at it.

  28. says

    Great post!

    No need to beat yourself up when you spend a little extra on a vacation…at least you had a good time while enjoying yourself!


  29. says

    I freak out any month where I’m not saving at least $2,000 to put toward debt or savings…haha. Which never happens, so I’m constantly freaking out that we’re spending too much. One of these days I’m going to have an aneurysm…

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