Frugal March

March spending was a little all over the place. We definitely had some highs and lows.
Taxes: Our taxes were a mess this year.  This chart is actually showing that we received more money back this year. A lot more. This was after careful calculations of whether it was better to file separately or joint. Separately was coming out in our favor, so we filed our taxes on CreditKarma and were done with it. Then I happened to be reading an Investopedia article [Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Roth IRA], and I realized we had make mistake #4.
Turns out that the IRS doesn't allow you to file separately if you contributed to a Roth. Here we were trying to make smart money decisions, so we'd both opened Roth IRA accounts, completely oblivious to the tax implications. As it stands now, I'm still not sure what exactly we need to do to correct for this. I know I need to file an amended return, but my calculations are different than what CreditKarma is showing. I've written them a couple of emails for clarification, but I'm probably going to send in my amended return based on my personal calculations if I don't hear anything soon.  The federal return isn't impacted as much, but it looks like we'll need to mail in a check for the state return.

Word to the wise: be aware that in most circumstances, you need to file married jointly if you contribute to a Roth IRA. I'm definitely not a tax accountant though, as evidenced by how much I screwed up our taxes this year. :P

Business Services: Reimbursements received for items purchased for work.

Gifts: Last year, there were a couple of large Amazon purchases. I'm pretty sure these were for the bikes that Francisco bought us for our anniversary. We ended up returning these because I didn't really think that we'd get our money's worth. It would be nice to have bikes sometimes, but I still highly doubt that we'd have enough time to use them. This year, the only gift item we spent money on was some O Pie O that Francisco picked up for us. I'm struggling a little bit because I don't feel like we did enough to recognize our anniversary, but I don't want our recognition to come primarily in the form of gifts and spending money.

Shopping: This year, we bought necessities - some face wash and batteries for my car key fob. Last year, we spent 4X as much. There were a few clothes purchases, but the highest dollar item was for the cell phone Francisco got me for our anniversary. I guess technically that could've gone against the Gift budget, but oh, well. It was just under $180 on Amazon, and I've had it for the past year.  I think it's a Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini. I don't have any need for a super-fancy cell phone, so this one suits me just fine.

Bills & Utilities: My utility bill for the end of March was actually about $10 cheaper this year when compared to last. The bar chart shows that we spent about twice as much because 2 months worth of bills were paid in a single month. That and our internet bill went up. We had been paying $50.00 per month, but Time Warner recently transitioned to Spectrum and our promotional rate expired. When we called Spectrum, they weren't able to offer a lower rate, claiming they could no longer offer Time Warner rates. We had Cincinnati Bell Fioptics installed at our house, so this should only be ~$47-$48 a month. When we called to cancel Time Warner, they suddenly decided they could offer us a lower rate after all.  Francisco is going to look into whether we should consider switching back again.  

Food & Dining: Our food expenses are nearly 40% cheaper than they were last year at this time. You can see in the chart that we spent nearly as much on food as we do on rent! I think this will continue to be a challenge for us, but we are still trying to switch things up. Our biggest wins are that we have transitioned nearly 100% to making our breakfasts and lunches everyday.  Before, my daily habit involved a Chobani yogurt for breakfast and an Amy's frozen lunch. Breakfast was usually $1.00 each and lunch was around $3-$4 a pop. That doesn't seem like an earth-shattering amount, especially compared to people who buy breakfasts and lunches from restaurants on a regular basis. But making oatmeal and simple lunches like stir-fries or dinner leftovers is definitely helping our bottom line. It's not as convenient, and not always as tasty, but I think it's been worth it so far.  

Home: No change.

Auto: This was definitely a negative spot in our budget report this month. In February, I was in a car accident. Not a huge one, but it left my car a little dented and the back door wasn't properly sealed, which was especially evident when driving on the interstate. I was tempted to just wait it out - at least until we got the car paid off - but Francisco wanted to deal with it before he started his new job, when his time was more flexible. So, we had what amounts to nearly another car payment for the month when we paid the insurance deductible.

There were some strange things happening in our numbers this month, at least in terms of taxes, utilities, and auto.  Adjusting out for Taxes and Business Services, our spending rate has improved. We spent 83% of what we spent last year. April is the last month with a car payment, and I am so excited to see that bill go away!

Check out previous financial reports here.  


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