December Budget Preview (and How We’re Managing Our Finances)

Categories Budget, Saving Money
December Budget Preview - Journey to Saving

December Budget Preview - Journey to SavingI am back with a preview of what December’s budget is going to (hopefully) look like!

We’re looking to take it easy this month, especially as we’ll be staying with my parents for 6 days surrounding Christmas. My mom has a feeling she’ll be working like crazy, so I plan on taking my own work with me and relaxing around the house.

Since there’s not much to say here, scroll down if you’re interested in reading about how we’re managing our finances. I’ve received a few questions on the subject and thought it was worth mentioning.

You all know I strive to be as transparent as possible around here, and I realized it was kind of silly not to address how we’ve been handling things since my freelance income isn’t quite where my full-time income used to be. It’s getting there, though!

December Budget Preview

Debt: Whoa, what’s $1,500 doing there?!? I had hinted at the fact we were possibly ready to make a big payment toward our loans, which is what spurred my student loan update last month. So I’m throwing it in here to be held accountable. We’ll still pay the minimum toward mine.

December Budget Preview Spreadsheet DetailsHousing: Same old story here! We sadly weren’t able to stay under $60 for electric like we did last month. Our electric bill actually states “the weather raised your bill by $8.” Thanks, mother nature. Our water bill also went up a tiny bit, but at least we’re staying under $30 there.

Food: I am sticking with $275 as again, we’ll be at my parents for Christmas, and I’m very grateful they feed us. I’ll probably contribute a little if my mom allows, just because that’s a lot of meals!

Ironically I wrote this in my draft: I don’t think we’ll need any household related items, but I’m leaving the $15 in from last month as we ended up with a few surprises! And of course, a surprise popped up. So I hope nothing else does!

I’m keeping restaurant spending low to account for our $5 Food Lion pizza every Friday (mostly R’s “treat”). If you have one around you and normally pay more for a pie, try it out! It’s huge and pretty tasty. Other than that, we don’t plan on dining out.

Transportation: I’m also keeping gas the same, as this month should entail the same amount of traveling as last month. Hopefully gas prices keep going down!

I’m throwing the $150 for the car back in here just in case we do make time to take the car to a mechanic, or do a tune-up ourselves. I’m not sure exactly how much the parts will cost.

We’re paying R’s car insurance premium in full, and mine was paid last month, so I don’t owe anything!


Cats: They need food this month and another box of litter.

Gifts: Pretty self-explanatory. My family is horrible at telling me what they want ahead of time, so yes, I have to wait until December to do Christmas shopping to ensure I get them things they actually want. Because of that, I also don’t have an amazing idea of how much I’ll spend.

I do have a limit (i.e. I’m only spending X amount on this person), but when it comes to my parents, it’s hard to say no. They gave me so much growing up, and I want to repay the favor. The only reason I mention this is because my dad is getting the “upgrade computer” itch, and is requesting some more expensive items. My mom and I will be splitting those.

We actually went grocery shopping last night, and while there, Harris Teeter was having a stock up sale on k-cups – 5/$25. I was going to get my parents a huge pack, but I decided to go this route instead! In total there’s 60 k-cups, so I thought that was decent, and it allows me to give them a variety to try out.

Ring: I’m adding this back in here, but I’m not entirely sure we’ll have enough time to fit this in. Thanks to everyone to offered advice in my last post – I’m hoping to find someone who knows someone and can recommend an appraiser and a jeweler. =)

Personal Care: This should be pretty low, seeing as we got most of those expenses out of the way last month.

How We’re Managing Our Money

Since I’ve been freelancing, managing our money hasn’t been the same as it was before, and I wanted to give you all a little insight into what we’re doing.

We’ve always had a checking and savings account with our bank, so that hasn’t changed. I would really like to have a bank that allows multiple savings accounts, as I’d like to label our different savings categories (wedding, car, cats, travel, etc.), but for now, it’s all lumped in together.

To cut to the chase, we have a big emergency fund. I knew we would need it when we moved because I was either going to spend time looking for an actual job, or I was going to rough it out as a freelancer for a bit.

So we’ve essentially been living off of R’s income and our savings since we moved. It’s not an amazing position to be in at all, but we knew this would be our reality for a bit.

What’s going on with my freelance income? Freelancing is a different beast because it’s not steady, and I have to account for taxes.

The majority of my freelance income is separate from our personal money (makes sense), and I use PayPal for that, though I’m looking into opening a business checking account. I’m not thinking of it as “regular” spending money right now because I have no clue how much I’ll owe in taxes.

So all in all, when we go to pay the bills each month, we use what’s in our checking account. My freelance income is totally separate and only gets touched to pay for business related expenses (I don’t take it out and use it for groceries or anything).

Because our emergency fund was good upon relocating, we had already technically met our savings goal (this was before we got engaged). We have a healthy amount in there, which is why I feel comfortable putting $1,500 toward our student loans.

Those are now our full priority, unless we have a huge emergency that drains tons of cash, in which case, we would focus on building up our savings again.

Ideally, my income will grow even more, and thankfully it’s gotten to the point where we are saving money each month. I’m hoping it’ll go up significantly by April, and we’ll be able to resume saving for the wedding on top of paying off our debt.

We’re also hoping R will receive a raise at some point, but he’s going to start side hustling as a graphic designer, so we’ll see! If he can earn at least $400, we’ll be able to double our student loan payments!

How much have you budgeted for presents? Do you save ahead of time or buy ahead of time? If you’re a freelancer, how do you handle your finances?

Erin is a total goofball who sucks at writing about herself (though she finds referring to herself in the third person amusing). When she's not editing videos, she can be found messing around in Photoshop, laughing at her cats, watching YouTube videos, playing video games, chair dancing, sipping coffee, or any random combination of the above.

29 thoughts on “December Budget Preview (and How We’re Managing Our Finances)

  1. I had also budgeted $250 in December for gifts, but in November I won $250 in Amazon gift cards at work! I took advantage of Black Friday deals and Amazon Prime free shipping. The extra $250 in December is now going to savings!

  2. I used to keep my freelance income entirely separate too and just used it for paying down debt and saving. This next year though I will add it as income to our budget, but the goal is still to use it entirely for travel funds and savings.

  3. I think that’s great that you keep your freelance income separate from your checking account for now. We do the exact same thing, for the most part. My freelance income is deposited into my old bank account, not our joint one. We’ve needed some of the money a few times, which is fine, but for the most part our goal is to live off of one income, hopefully less!! Ideally all of my money will get saved and a portion of John’s will get saved each month, too.

    1. I can’t imagine how complicated it is with both of you being self-employed. Or at least, from a tax perspective, and trying to keep all the expenses straight. =) I wish we could lower our expenses a bit more to live off of R’s income. Really, if we paid off our loans, that would make the biggest difference.

  4. I have a small business chequing account and I maintain a specific amount as a float in order to not pay any banking transactions/monthly fee. It is strictly for all of my business income and expenses. I try to avoid PayPal because of the fees but a couple of my clients do use it to remit their payments.

    1. I’m wanting to get more away from PayPal as well, but is is convenient. I know having a separate business bank account will make things easier come tax time!

  5. Are you getting the ring sized up or sized down? I took mine in recently to have it “embiggened”, and we were quoted $186. I was pretty floored, since the last time I’d done it (granted, it was many years ago) it was only $50. She stated that it was because the price of gold had gone up so much. I said no thank you and decided to wait until I lost the weight instead, which is what I should have done in the first place, but I missed wearing the ring so much. Anyway, I’m just wondering if you’re getting it “ensmallened”, if that would be way cheaper and what they do with the gold that they remove.

    1. Down! My fingers are tiny. I think the ring I have is something like 4.25. It’s silver, so I’m not sure if that changes anything. I’ll definitely fill in the price once I know, but I really hope it’s not that much! If it is, I guess it’s still cheaper than buying a ring. =)

  6. Hey Erin, this is great!! Everything sounds really promising for you, even if you haven’t yet replaced your previous income. It sounds like you and R really have stuff down, and it’s way cool he wants to start side hustling too! Can you have R talk to my B about starting a side hustle? Haha just kidding but seriously… ;)

    Also, high five to putting so much towards your student loans! I hate mine so much, I just pay the minimum because I’m like, I don’t want to give you anymore, dumb loans. But that’s a silly way to think, so maybe 2015 will be the year when I hunker down ;)

    1. It has honestly taken R quite a few months to get here. He originally heard about 99designs on a podcast we were listening to when we drove to FinCon, which was back in September! He’s very protective of his free time, but I’m glad he’s seeing the value in a side hustle.

      Ha! I don’t blame you for thinking that way. I hate our loans, too, but that’s why I want them GONE!

  7. So true! :)

    Best wishes on the sizing. I’m sure it will be MUCH cheaper to shrink it than to enlarge it. Ridiculous what a teeny wad of gold costs. Silver’s up there too, but they’re taking it out, not putting it in, so I think you’re sitting pretty on that! :)

  8. I haven’t bought gifts yet, except for my oldest daughter and that’s a different story. I buy plants for all the older folks, except for doing charitable donations for one couple. This year, I’m looking to do charitable donations for just about everyone. I just haven’t sat down to do it and it’s all because of my side hustles!!!

    1. My grandma would love that – she has plants everywhere in her house! It’s a little special tradition that she gets my mom and my aunts poinsettia plants. I seriously can’t believe there’s only 20 days left until Christmas.

  9. We spend the same amount of money on all of our nieces and nephews to keep things fair and my son gets the next largest allotment for holiday budget. My hubby and I try to keep things VERY small between the two of us and typically spend less than $100 for everything. We really would rather watch my son open stuff than anything.

    1. Aw! My family follows the same model – we have a set amount we spend on cousins/nieces/nephews, and then I think my aunts and my mom spend a little extra amongst themselves since they’re sisters, and my grandma gets the biggest presents (since she’s spoiled all of us). I think R and I will spend maybe $20 between the two of us.

  10. I think it’s good to leave a little allotted for random expense that might come up. They always seem to. Do you pay estimated taxes yet? ONe book I read that is great for freelancers and money is The Money Book: For freelancers, part-timers, and the self-employed by Joseph D’angnese and Denise Kiernan. It’s how I kind of set mine up.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll have to add it to the list. I did send in one estimated payment, but I honestly don’t know if it was too much or too little. I need to get on making an appointment with a professional!

  11. We have a frozen pizza every Friday night too! Though we don’t have a Food Lion, so ours is from Costco :). We try to keep things simple for Christmas and typically buy one or two gifts for each of our family members. Most years, Mr. FW and I don’t actually exchange gifts with each other–but sometimes we’ll get a joint “household” gift. Not sure what we’re going to do this year yet…

    1. I don’t think I knew of any pizza deals in NY as far as grocery stores went. I’m sure Costco has a good deal on them!

      I really like the idea of a joint household gift. It makes sense! Last year, my grandma and my mom chipped in to buy us a lot of household items we needed for the apartment. It was great!

  12. I keep my freelance income in an account at CapitalOne360 so it earns some interest. You need to save at least 30% for taxes probably (unless your state taxes are higher than mine) and the rest you could use for debt or savings. Just a thought :)

    1. I was thinking of opening an account with CapitalOne for business income, actually! I’m not sure how everything will work out with deductions, which is why I’m playing it safe and not touching the money until I consult with a professional. It should be enough to cover taxes! When I have a clearer picture of everything I’ll be sending more (hopefully) to debt.

  13. I’m almost done my Christmas shopping. Between both our families, all we’re spending is about $250. Gift exchanges for the adults, presents for the kids (there are only 2).

    Since the amount is pretty low, I don’t really have to budget for it. I just try to buy presents ahead of time because I hate trying to find parking in the mall, walking around in a crowded mall and waiting forever in line. The holidays seem to involve a lot of waiting.

    1. That’s awesome, Karen! It’s also great to see someone else not spending a bunch. I felt like my budgeted amount was a little low compared to a lot of others. Ha! You are SO right about the waiting. Malls are so atrocious this time of year. I try to stay away from them all the time!

  14. I keep all my savings accounts at Capital One 360. It used to be ING Direct. I highly recommend them! I love how I can keep all of my savings under one user account, but there still all separated into their own goals! Lmk if you want to know more :)

    1. Thanks Lisa! I keep hearing everyone rave about Capital One 360, so I’ll probably be looking into it! I wish all banks let you have multiple savings buckets.

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