May Budget 2018 with Money Tracking Explanation

We often get the question of how we track our money, and when David mentioned recently he was “drowning in receipts” (I can relate) (No she can’t. I can relate. – Lee)  I thought I would go ahead and combine the explanation of how we track our money with this month’s budget, so those of you who skip these budget posts, can skip this explanation first, before you skip the budget post. (You never know, though, there might be a pretty picture at the end of a budget post, and if you skip it, you’re only robbing yourself. – Lee) Let me start by saying it wasn’t easy initially.  In our former life, we were used to having enough money that we didn’t need to track every penny, and it was quite the mental transition to not only track everything, but also talk about it.  (I still tracked every penny back then, I just didn’t care what the data revealed. Well, I cared a little. I used to hassle the kids about how much it cost to leave lights on, to the point where I made a spreadsheet of how much an hour of anything electrically powered cost, and put post it notes all over everything. I was a super cool dad. Oh, and I also told them, a LOT, about how I didn’t want to heat the neighborhood while they opened the sliding door all the way to let out a dog that needed a 6 inch opening. Did they think we were MADE of money? Also, food waste makes me crazy. And turning up the heat so they could walk around the house in shorts and a t-shirt, with no shoes or socks in the winter. Sorry. I ranted a little bit there. Apparently I still have a little New England Fuel Oil Cost PTSD.  – Lee) I know from talking to our friends, we aren’t alone in this, and although people track to varying degrees, everyone it seems is tracking more than they did prior to becoming full-timers.

So how do we do it?  Well for me it starts with a spreadsheet, and I purchased the basic template from Howard at RV-Dreams before we even went on the road. Yes, I could have created my own, but I liked his format and I wanted to support him and his lifestyle, so I bought his way back in the summer of 2013, and never looked back.  I have been using it since the beginning, and am a big fan.  It’s relatively simple, all the formulas work, and it helps me stay organized.  We have changed descriptions on some of the categories over the years to ones that work a little better for us, but mostly we have used it as is.

As good as the spreadsheet is you have to get the information into it and that’s where we initially ran into a problem.  Initially we tried to keep all our receipts, but we kept losing them, or didn’t get them, and it just didn’t work.  This was making Lee crazy, and ultimately he decided to use a program called Quicken which he was familiar with because he used it at his former job.  Quicken does all kinds of amazing things, but I still preferred my spreadsheet, so what Lee does is download our transaction info from all of our accounts into Quicken and then categorizes each purchase so they match what we have in the spreadsheet.  He then runs me a weekly report, which I transcribe into the spreadsheet. (Sorry, I just need to take a moment. I’m  just laughing and laughing at her use of the word “weekly”. It’s June 7, and as soon as I proof read the first part of this post I’m going to load up Quicken and categorize all of May’s transactions because the last one I did was May 2nd. Then I’ll run the category reports so she can put them all into the spreadsheet. Weekly. That’s funny. – Lee)  

This is double the work, certainly, but what I like about this system is if he makes a categorization mistake I catch it when I move the numbers over. And the categories are important.  In order to control our spending we need to know where the money is going and to trust that information it needs to be input in properly at the beginning.  Even though this sounds like a ton of work, and initially it was a little challenging, at this point all of that happens very quickly (still giggling. – Lee) with both of us spending maybe an hour a month on budgets.  It actually ended up being way less time than rifling through a million receipts, and we never have to worry that what we enter into the spreadsheet doesn’t match what we have in the bank. (Do as we say, kids, not as we do. – Lee)

The only tricky part is cash, and we try to use that as little as possible.  Let me give you an example.  We know we will need cash for campground fees or a special event so we take $100 out of the bank.  In Quicken we can break that $100 down and categorize it, but since we tend to hold onto to the cash in our wallets, they don’t always get categorized in the same month we took the money out.  My solution to this has been to capture cash purchases in the spreadsheet as they happen, and to be honest occasionally one slips through the cracks.  (Back to laughing really hard again. Laughter is good for the soul, thanks, honey! – Lee) But since we prefer using cards (we want the AmEx points!!!) this generally isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.  We had a similar issue with our Pilot/Flying J fuel card (transactions not showing up until the next month when we got the statement). so now Lee enters our Pilot gas purchases on the spreadsheet as they occur and when the bill comes in the next month I just ignore that charge because it’s already been input. Figuring out how to handle the fuel was a much bigger deal, because that can have a huge impact on our budget in any given month, but we seem to have a system that is working.

I am sure this all sounds pretty complicated, and initially it was.  It eventually it becomes second nature and what I like about it is we are both seeing all the transactions every single month.  It’s much easier to hold each other accountable when we both have a stake in “paying the bills” and even though there is some double work involved, this stops one of us from being oblivious to what is going on.  The only other thing I will mention here is that now we talk about a money a lot more than in our old life. Initially those conversations were very stressful, but now it’s rarely any different than talking about who is going to take out the trash.  That is a major improvement for us, and came from us “meeting in the middle” in money conversations.  I stopped worrying obsessively about every little dime and Lee stopped holding the information so closely and then giving me the bad news all at once.  This transition did NOT happen overnight.  It took a couple of years for us to reach this place, but I often think that if nothing else came our of our full timing adventure, the way our relationship handles money now is a huge benefit.

Hope this answers the question.  On to the month of May!! The good news is that despite not having full pay periods we were only $61 over budget this month.  One of the benefits of working so hard was we didn’t have a ton of time to spend any money.  We definitely had issues with the grocery budget again though, which seems to be a pattern for us when we land in a remote place.  We end up stocking up, as if we were going to be snowed in or something, and then spend the rest of the summer trying to figure a way to eat all of that food.  More details are listed below.

 

Groceries – Like I said in the summary, we spent way to much and went over by $363.14.  On the plus side we were under by $121 in eating out which helps offset some of those costs.  

Memberships – Both our Costco and our Amex memberships came due this month and since those are both providing us value we went ahead and paid them.  Currently we aren’t paying for Work Kamper or Escapees so for now we are still under in this category. 

Clothing – Lee broke down and requested a bunch of work shirts. He’s been wearing this same model since 2006. When he finds something he likes he sticks with it. Instead of the black he’s always worn, he a moss green which goes better with the type of work he is doing now.  Since having a tucked in, buttoned down, well fitting shirt matters to him I was all for it.  Plus, these shirts really last. The ones he’s replacing are over 10 years old, and they’re in perfectly good shape, but the black has faded quite a lot. (I absolutely love these shirts. I wore both the long and short sleeve versions for 10 years at work, and I’ve continued to wear them since we hit the road. You’ve seen me wear them. I wear them pretty much every day, and they’re nearly indestructible. What I really like about them is that the tails are extra long, and they have arm gussets, so they stay tucked in. And I’ve never had a button come off of one. They’re pretty reasonable considering how long they last. Check them out here. – Lee) 

Miscellaneous – I spent $56 on plants for my garden for the summer.  I really should put this in entertainment or maybe food 🙂

Overall it was a good month, and I was pleased to see we only spent $3071 since it was all pretty crazy, and things tend to get out of whack when we are working so hard. Now that things have settled down we will really need to stay on our costs, because part of the reason we took these jobs is to sock away some money for our next break in October/November. Although that is always a balancing act when we also want to do stuff.  A friend of mine said the other day that she is finally “living within her means”.  I don’t know if we are actually doing that, but we are always getting closer, which is good enough for me.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

March 2018 Budget (with Revenue)

This was a rough month, with $6,562.77 in expenses.  Keep in mind though that $1,909 of that was directly related to RV repair, and I can’t very well complain that things in the rig aren’t getting fixed and then also complain that it costs money to fix them.  It’s part of the deal.  The good news is we did earn $3,850 in March to offset those costs and in some categories, like groceries, we stocked up for the month of April as well.  Also the rally we attended was definitely a factor as we spent more in almost every category in order to attend.  That was totally worth it though, so to some extent it just is what it is.  Category details are listed below.

 

Campground Fees – We went over our monthly budget spending $376.96, but we have spent nothing in the last three months, so annualized that will work itself out. 

Groceries – We actually were doing fine on groceries until we did a $298 Costco run at the end of the month, but that was a stock up for Utah (and beyond)  since we weren’t sure what grocery availability would be. I also cooked quite a bit at the reunion rally and that always costs more, but it’s also a great opportunity for me to try out new recipes.

Alcohol –  Lee got a great deal in Nevada (buy one bottle get a second for a penny) on some alcohol and stocked up, so we now are carrying more bottles than I think we ever have.  What he bought will last him months, so that will annualize as well.

Dining Out – Really blew the budget on dining out, going $177 over budget.  We had our anniversary dinner at The Big Texan and ate a ton of convenience food as we traveled to the rally.  That’s mainly me, by the way, because I can’t seem to pass a truck stop without getting some kind of snack.  Silly really since I have stuff in the rig, but I always just grab something and that really adds up.

Entertainment – Lee and I spent $100 gambling in Pahrump,  which is something we never do, but had a good time. Most of that I lost, he came close to breaking even,.  We also bought a bunch of books for the summer since we were near so many Half Priced bookstores in Texas.  Except for the gambling, the rest was “stocking up” and since we spent next to nothing in this category while gate guarding I don’t feel that bad about it.

Truck Fuel – Truck fuel was brutal, with a monthly expense of $952.  As we traveled across New Mexico we were only getting 6.5mpg (hills and winds), and one long travel day in particular we spent $300 in fuel.  Craziness.  Again, we spent very little the first three months of the year, but it still bums me out, but we would have spent this either way getting to our summer job in Oregon, it just happened to come all at once in March.

Truck Maintenance – Along with lots of home repairs we also had a battery die, which cost $172.  That was my fault since I left the back door open on the truck after going to the grocery store, but the batteries were also four years old so I didn’t feel that bad about it.

Personal Care – We went over by $41 in this category because we both got haircuts and Lee bought two pairs of KIKAR LED Reading Glasses (Strength +2.0) with Case These are wonderful because they allow him to read in bed with just a tiny light and I highly recommend them as a marriage saver!

Postage – The bulk of this was Lee brought some videos with us from his parents house to work on and he shipped them all back once he finished them, which was a one time expense of around $75.

Home Equipment – Here’s the big expenditure for the month.  I’m not going to break all this down, but the biggies were $1,000 for the slide floor, $200 in labor and $100 in parts for the slide cables, $200 for new stairs, and $100 for the hoses for the washing machine and the tools (which cost $70 but will last forever).  What can I say, stuff breaks and it costs money to fix it 🙂

OK back to Zion, where we are spending even more money!  This is why we worked all those months to enjoy this though, and I am not going to make myself crazy about money this month either.  Hey, that’s progress!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

November 2016 Budget

November was a really good month from an expense perspective with only $3,216.43 in expenses.  It’s hard to spend money when you are working 10-12 hours a day.  It actually would have been one of our best months ever, $2875.63, if we did not have to double pay our health insurance.  We signed up for ACA for 2017 and had to pay the first month premium to get on the program.  Details for all other items are listed below.

November Budget

Campground Fees – We spent $105 traveling from Montana to Texas in the first few days of the month.

Groceries – We were under budget by $97. This was due to a concerted effort on our part to use what we already had in the pantry and the significantly lower cost of food in Texas.

Dining Out – We were over between the two categories by about $100. A chunk of this was our one big splurge meal at the Big Texan, but also we tend to spend more on food when we are traveling.  It has been tough not to completely blow this budget though.  As hard as we are working it is tempting to order pizza or get fast food and more of that may happen in December, but in November we did pretty well. 

Entertainment – This was almost exclusively books as there is a Half-Priced Bookstore two minutes from the warehouse where we went for training on two occasions. Books are definitely our weakness, and we adore the Half-Priced Bookstore chain, so it’s not surprising we went a little crazy.  At this point we are running out of room for more books and not reading them very fast since we are so busy, so this should be it in the book department for a while. (Challenge accepted. I always say, there’s ALWAYS room, and especially for books. – Lee)

Truck Fuel – This was great at $172 under budget.  The bulk of our spend was traveling to get here and we have used very little while here.  We get reimbursed for one tankfull at the end so we will get some of this back. 

Truck Registration – I showed this as being due in November, but it’s actually in December.

Home – The big purchase in this category was $50 in couplings and clamps so we could attach our sewer hose to the large portable tank they provided us for waste here. Not sure if we will ever use them again, but they were necessary.

So it was a good month from an expense stand point at least.  We will see if the trend continues.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog. Thank you.   Search Amazon.com here

October 2016 Budget

One of the best things about working 15 straight days is you don’t have much time to spend money.  Not surprisingly this was one of our best months ever with only $2881.88 in monthly expenses, saving $1191.87 off our monthly budget. It’s not hard to figure out why.  Minimal campground costs, low fuel costs and lack of entertainment costs helped to financially make this a great month for us. So if you are really struggling to stay on budget, work a ton of 12 hour days straight.  That should help 🙂

october-2016-budget

 

Campground Fees – Only two days as we traveled to our next work kamping job.

Groceries – I am really happy with this category, because despite the fact that we purchased lots of prepared foods and didn’t cook many meals, overall we were $38 under budget. As you know this category has been a major challenge for us, so maybe eating canned soup and deli chicken every day is the way to keep these costs in line!

Dining Out – Despite the $119 overage in this category I am really happy with it.  $73 was one big splurge meal at the end to celebrate finishing the harvest and the rest was pretty reasonable.  It was a HUGE temptation to not eat out constantly since we were so tired and working, and if we had eaten every day at the food truck at the yard this would have been much worse.  Considering the circumstances, I think we did great here.  Plus it was offset by Entertainment where we spent a whopping $2.28. (I am pretty sure that was an ITunes song.  I love the show The Voice and occasionally just have to download a song from there. 

Truck Fuel – Individual fill ups were somewhat expensive in Montana, but there were few of them as all we did was drive back and forth to work every day. $178.20 is really a job expense in my mind, although after talking to our tax accountant, I don’t believe we can claim it on our taxes.  The most conservative view is going back and forth to a job from where the RV is parked is not deductible.  Traveling within the job work hours would be (ie: if we had been sent to another location during our work day), but a simple back and forth is not. I am not a tax accountant though and you may take another approach, but personally we tend to be pretty conservative on how we file.  I only mention it because I had some confusion on this issue, but of course talk to your accountant about your unique situation. 

Clothing – We spent $90.62 on last minute clothing items for the harvest.  This could have been avoided if we would have known in advance what clothing was needed, but since it was almost all thrift store I don’t feel bad.  I may have also slipped in a few recipe books as well, which really should go into entertainment, but I’m not going to break that all out. 

Home Repair – We crushed this category, coming in $134 under budget because again who has time for home repair when you are working 12 hour days.  I will say we have developed quite a list of items that need to be addressed, but have decided to use our extended warranty and address these items in bulk once we are in New Braunfels. 

Overall, it was a great budget month, which is another plus for working the beet harvest. What’s interesting to me is we have demonstrated we can live on less than $3K a month, but seem unable to consistently achieve that result.  Why is that so important?  Well if we can comfortably live on less, we can work less.  We are not alone in this struggle, by the way.  Most people don’t just flip a switch and instantly become frugal.  It obviously can be done of course, we met numerous kids who make their beet harvest money last for several months, what is still to be determined is whether we are willing to consistently do it. 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog. Thank you.   Search Amazon.com here