Monthly Budget Dec 2013

After thinking and praying about it for over a year, Carrie and I have decided to start posting our monthly budget.

(Please read this before leaving comments or jumping to conclusions as to our intentions behind releasing our finances.)

We may or may not release our net worth and investments numbers quarterly. We aren’t sure how we feel about that yet. This is a big step for us so we thought we would take it slow. Is our net worth and investments something you are interested in seeing? I can see how that would be helpful for the larger conversation on money. Let us know, down below in the comments section.

Let’s get right to it. Here are the numbers for Dec 2013.

Further explanations are below for the categories that say SEE BELOW. I won’t explain everything, just the interesting parts.

Budgeted Actual Difference Notes
Income total (net) 7410 9627 2217 SEE BELOW
Church giving 230 180 50 SEE BELOW
Cash withdrawal 600 440 160
Rent 0 0 0 SEE BELOW
Gas 70 58 12
Electric 80 65 15
Direct TV / Internet 90 139 -49
Water 85 128 -43
Google fiber 70 70 0
Taxes 300 300 0
Other 0 0 0
Cell phone 135 134 1 SEE BELOW
Grocery 400 503 -103
Restaurant 200 156 44
Emergency fund 800 0 800
4- Mo expenses 35 0 35
Car replacement 0 8205 -8205  SEE BELOW
Life insurance 55 110 -55
Medical 250 0 250
Holidays 100 0 100
Other 0 0 0
Vacation / Christmas 400 211 189
Household items 40 0 40
Student loans 300 180 120
Car gas / Oil 300 327 -27
Entertainment 100 12 88
Gifts 50 218 -168  SEE BELOW
Investing / Retirement 0 0 0
Baby 200 0 200  SEE BELOW
Other 0 0 0
Car insurance 30 220 -190  SEE BELOW
Car repair 100 310 -210  SEE BELOW
Clothes 50 50 0
cosmetics 15 0 15
Braces 256 256 0  SEE BELOW
Wifi Hotspot  0 72 -72  SEE BELOW
Business 1000 1000 0  SEE BELOW
Violin 60 0 60
other 0 0 0
Netflix 9 8 1
Cleaning service 100 0 100
Education 0 31 -31
Gifts 100 288 -188
Cricket hotspot 200 68 132  SEE BELOW
Unexpected 400 0 400
TOTAL Spending 7410 13739 -6329
Subtract Total Spending from Total Income 0 -4112 -4112  SEE BELOW
Should equal zero savings / overspending

OK, it’s all out there, there is no going back now! Lots of things to “explain” this month. December is usually different from other months with bonus checks, traveling, gifts, and – not to mention – we bought a car. Actually, every month is different, isn’t it?

Let’s go through the categories that need explaining…

1. Income: We aren’t planning on getting specific with our different sources of income at this time. We have between 3 and 5 different sources of income depending on the month. Listing how much is earned from each source wouldn’t be right or fair to our different employers. Our income for December was about $4,ooo higher than the average 2013 month (no, we do not make $115,524/yr). Carrie got a bonus check at work and I got paid early for some work I did in December that normally would have been part of January income. (January income will be below average as a result.) Our average monthly income has increased by about 40% compared to 2011 and 2012. I quit my old job two years ago and we lived off of Carrie’s income only for most of 2011 and 2012. My income is starting to bounce back. We will see what 2014 has in store for me, my business, and my income.

*Also of note for income. We did not show gross income, taxes, 401(k) contribution, flex health savings contribution, income from investments, net worth, or cash savings. Like I said above, we may or may not share that information quarterly. What you see here is net income and budget/spending only.

2. Church giving: Yup, it is WAY LOW (as a percent of our monthly income). Let me (try to) explain…

When Carrie and I first got married we had several conversations about how much to give monthly to our church. Three years ago we were earning a LOT less than we are now. (And remember, this month’s income was a lot higher than normal.) You will notice that we planned to give $230 and only gave $180. That is because we have an automatic withdrawal from our bank account to our church each month. Our church was running a building fund campaign and we were giving $50/mo to the building fund. We must have set the $50/mo building fund giving to stop in Nov 2013. We haven’t increased our church giving since the original conversation three years ago. This month, we just happened to have a month with a huge income increase while dropping the $50 building fund. Carrie and I were both surprised by this and it lead to some serious conversations about increasing our giving. It is what it is, and I won’t try to explain my way out of anything. Carrie and I feel really good about the money we have given to our church over the past three years. With an irregular income and a fixed monthly withdrawal for giving, the % will go up and down each month. Next month the % will shoot back up, even if the amount we give stays the same. Previous months before December 2013 also had much higher % giving stats. I have a lot to say about giving, stick around and we can chat about giving on the blog and the podcast. So, not exactly what we wanted to share on our first public budget release on the giving side of things. But, this is the truth and as a result, we will be adjusting according to our new income averages.

3. Rent: Carrie and I aren’t homeowners (yet). A very long story made short…

A tree fell on the house we are renting and the repairs are taking months to finish. We are living rent free in an apartment that our landlord owns. Our rent is normally $950/mo. So, we are literally saving $950 a month while the repairs are made. While this is an inconvenience, saving $950 a month and living rent free is a pretty sweet deal!

4. Cell Phone: Yup, way high! This is for my phone only. Carrie’s phone is paid for at work. Carrie and I used to be on the same plan. We had two iPhones with AT&T. We were paying $180/mo for both of us. A few months ago, Carrie’s work started paying for her phone. When she was dropped from our plan, our bill went from $180 to $135. This feels really high for just one phone. I have been lazy about this and haven’t checked in to lowering my bill. Maybe I will get to it this month.

5. Car replacement: We bought a car this month! We saved and saved and bought a 2009 Dodge Journey. We paid $8200. We paid cash, no loan or payments for us! The tax was $715 (paid in Jan, not Dec). We did two repairs (heated seat and power lock repair) that cost $600. We sold Carrie’s other car in November for $3,200. So we basically had to pay $5,000 out of our pocket for the new car. Cars are what they are. Cars are a HUGE expense that most people will deal with their entire lives. Cars are a sinking cost. Cars are always depreciating in value. Cars cost money, they need repairs, gas, insurance, inspection, tax, title, and registration. Paying for a car with cash is always better than having a car payment. More about cars on the blog and podcast, so stay tuned.

6. Gifts: Christmas = gifts, travel, and extra expenses. We traveled from Kansas City to Oklahoma City for Christmas. Gifts, travel, gas, food… it all adds up. The holidays come every year, shouldn’t be a surprise. Plan for the holidays all year. Saving $100 a month makes all those expenses a lot easier. The holidays can be stressful enough without the added financial stress.

7. BABY! Carrie and I are expecting our first child in April 2014. We haven’t spent much money on baby stuff yet, less than three hundred dollars so far. We are lucky, we have been given almost everything we need from family and friends. We are planning a natural home birth, so I promise we will be talking about that a lot. More, much, much more on this subject later, stay tuned!

8/9. Car insurance / repair: New car = new insurance and a few repairs. We use Geico and we love it! 2009 Dodge Journey and a 1995 Toyota Camry cost $553.78 every six months for both cars. ($92/mo for both cars.)

10. Braces: Carrie only has another 2-3 months before she gets her braces off. Normally we get reimbursed 100% through Carrie’s work health flex saving account. We used all of the money in the flex account around October so we had to pay out of pocket for Nov and December. Jan, Feb, March 2014 we will again be reimbursed 100%. Braces will be off around March!

11. Business: We are still getting this business (Better Conversations with Derek and Carrie) off the ground (profit-wise), so some months we pull from our personal account to pay for things. This is happening less and less and we hope to not have to do this anymore during 2014. Anyone who has started their own business knows it takes a personal financial investment to get things started.

12/13. Wireless HotSpot: Because we are not in our house while it is being repaired, we got a hot spot instead of installing new Internet service at the apartment we are staying in (we are only going to be there for 2-3 months). The worst part about this is not being able to use the Google Fiber we are paying for at our house!

14. TOTALS: We earned $2217 more than we planned to this month. We spent $4112 more than we earned (because of the car). Without the car purchase, we would have earned almost $5000 more than we spent. The extra cash for the car purchase (obviously) came from our cash savings. Again, next month (Jan 2014) income is going to be a LOT lower. Oh the joy of an irregular income!

Read our reasons for posting our budget.

Download a copy of the same Google Doc spreadsheet that we use!

So, what do you think?

How is your monthly budget coming along?

Care to share anything?

Derek and Carrie

-Derek, Carrie, Amelie

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  • Derek C. Olsen

    I feel naked! (Financially speaking)

    • Derek C. Olsen

      And it feels good, right.

  • C.R.P

    Interesting, I love seeing the numbers, Derek. We budget a lot alike I find… I save for Christmas year round as well as it makes the holiday season much easier and stress-free! (Almost). Tithing is such a personal thing, I don’t think you need to “explain” why you’re giving what you do, whether it’s a lot, or a little. I choose to “tithe” through a sponsor child… we send him extra $$ at Christmas, etc.. I also *always* give to assorted charities, help others who are struggling, etc… so little of the amount of my giving actually goes to my Church. It goes to people… and I don’t think that’s wrong/bad. 😉 The only thing i’ll add is to CALL about that cell phone bill! lol!! It’ll be a 10 minute call and if you can save $50/month on your phone, you’ll be a happy man! 😉

    Onwards & upwards!

    • Derek C. Olsen


      Thank you so much for being so supportive. (For those who don’t know, Carla posts her budget too! Just click on her profile to find her blog. Also, Carla helped us decide if we should post our budget or not.)

      RE: “Explaining our giving” I think you are correct, we don’t need to “explain” anything to anyone but God. I think of my “explanation” more like stating the facts and the numbers, not an excuse or rationalization.

      I also think of my “explanation” more like talking out loud to myself. What I was more focused on was the fact that our tithe this month just happened to be a lot lower, as a %, compared to what we normally give. Also, a lot lower than what WE are comfortable with, not what anyone else thinks.

      Carrie and I actually have three different levels of giving worked into our budget for each month. Tithe, gifts, and giving. (You will notice $218 and $288 on the budget.) Some of that money was given to charity (and some of that money was given through our church). I forgot to mention that.

      Anyway, being our first time posting, I was a little nervous and maybe came across defensive. I am sure that will wear off as time goes on.

      • C.R.P

        I understand re: giving… and yes, i’d love to give more too!! Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t. Also, when you have debt to pay off I think you need to deal with that first as well, as if you’re “giving large” then you’re not really giving what’s “yours” kwim? So do what you can and know that one day you’ll work up to your goal in all areas!! :)

        And yes… it’s all ‘old hat’ when you get used to posting it! lol!

  • Jon White

    Thanks for sharing your budget Derek and Carrie. It couldn’t have been an easy decision. What I am constantly reminded of when I look at other people’s budget is how unique each one is. There are no two budget that are exactly a like and that is perfectly OK. We all have our unique situations and needs.

    But from your budget I can tell you guys are doing what you preach. You guys are having consistent talks about your money and are on the same page. That is so refreshing to see! Keep it up, you guys are doing great and I’m looking forward to how the new baby changes your budget.

    • Derek C. Olsen

      Thanks Jon.

      I am sure our new baby (due April 2014) will change things a lot, financially. That will add a new element to the conversation about money in a marriage (with kids!).

      See you around.


  • kentsanders

    This is very cool, Derek. I applaud your decision to be so transparent. That takes a lot of guts. It kind of brings up the question, “Why does everyone get so nervous sharing their numbers?” It’s because most of us associate our identity, status and self-worth with dollar signs. We like to categorize and rank others based on income and possessions.

    But you are bypassing that whole thing by just being open about your successes and challenges, and helping us all to learn from it in the process. You guys are doing great work and your openness has helped me to think about how I can be more open as well.

    • Derek C. Olsen

      Thanks Kent.

      Interesting, I had not thought of it as “bypassing that whole thing”. I wonder how that changes the conversations. I see what you are saying, but had not thought of what it would look like, having bypassed associating identity, status, and self-worth. I wonder if people will still rank and categorize us, but in a way that is different as a result of the numbers being uncovered.

      As always, you have brought up some great thoughts.

      See you around, Kent!

      • kentsanders

        It sounds ironic, but I think being more open about the details of your finances actually takes the emotion and mystery out of it, which is a good thing. Everyone seems to get weird when they talk about their money. But the thing is, numbers don’t tell the whole story. There are always many factors that make up someone’s true financial big picture. So when someone says, “I make this or that salary,” it doesn’t give you the whole picture.

        Anyway, it’s great that you guys have taken the lead, and it will be an encouragement to others to do the same.

        • Derek C. Olsen

          Wow. I had not thought of it in this way. Very, very interesting.

          Do you mind if I borrow this idea for a blog post?
          I will credit you, maybe. 😉


          • kentsanders

            Feel free to use whatever you like, ha ha. Even if you borrowed an idea I probably wouldn’t realize it anyway. :)

  • Carnette

    Derek and Carrie, thank you so much for sharing! You two are such a blessing and so refreshing!!! There are so many things my husband and I need to discuss about finances that we just keep putting off. This honest and transparent post of your budget helps me to see just how non intimidating and freeing it can be. Thanks again and I will see you guys soon! :-)

    • Derek C. Olsen

      Thanks Carnette!

      Honesty and transparency can be helpful, they can also be revealing in interesting ways. We don’t always want to face what is covered up. We don’t always want others to see either. Uncovering the good and the bad can have positive results in unexpected ways.


      • Carnette

        Thank you Derek. I totally agree!

  • Brandi Copeland

    Your budget gives me confidence that your techniques are real and you are in the trenches with me. You have helped me, a single parent, change my finances and my life…Thank you..Brandi …UMKC/Florida.

    • Derek Olsen

      Hey Brandi !!

      You took my CommUniversity class a while back, right? Good to hear from you. GREAT to hear you are taking charge of your money.

      You are correct, we are in the trenches too. Everyone is in the trenches, some just don’t realize it or try to pretend like they aren’t.

      Stay in touch and enjoy that warm weather!
      Keep up the good work.


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