Is There Such A Thing As a Normal Budget Month?

Looking back on our finances from previous years has really made me wonder if there is such a thing as a normal budget month anymore.

For instance, in just one year Tori started the year on disability due to her first foot surgery, went back to work, then went back on disability again for her second foot surgeryOur income that year was anything but normal.

Once you added in our side income, which varied greatly from month to month, it was pretty difficult to predict our income for any given month that year.

Of course, income is just one line item of your budget, or maybe a couple lines depending on how you break it out.

Where things were all over the place for us that year was the expense side of our budget. Why? Everything under the sun popped up as irregular spending month after month. What am I talking about? Let’s dig in!

Purchasing Our New House

The first three months of this particular year were a blur as we looked for a new house and dealt with all of the costs associated with buying a property.

Looking for a house didn’t cost hardly anything. That said, we were saving like crazy to be able to have enough cash. We needed money for the down payment and closing costs to secure a conventional loan without touching our emergency fund.

Once we found a house, the transaction costs added up quickly.

Between surveys, home inspections, various closing costs and the down payment itself, we bled cash like crazy in the beginning of the year. We had planned for it all, but those definitely were not normal budget months.

Foot Surgery #2

Foot surgery #2 was an unplanned surgery and a complete surprise to us after Tori’s first surgery failed.

This hit us in the income category (since we only got 80% of her employer stated hours which were just 83% of a full time employee) and in the expense category, as we hadn’t planned for another surgery with her flexible spending account (FSA).

This was a bummer because we didn’t have the money in a tax free account. On top of that, we had to pay for all of the co-pays, deductibles and other medical and insurance costs out of a smaller income.

Rental Property Costs

After we moved into our new house we had to fix up our old house in order to rent it out. There was a lot of time and a good chunk of money that went into this endeavor, but it paid dividends (actually, rent) quickly.

Wedding Costs

To make things even more complex, we decided to get married in the year in question. Thankfully we were able to keep our total wedding costs, including the rings, to just under $5,000. However, that didn’t include the honeymoon.

Honeymoon Costs

The honeymoon was the next item on our list that made yet another month an abnormal budget month. We had a pretty awesome honeymoon and you can read about how much our trip cost starting in this post.

What Is The Lesson?

The lesson we have learned from that year is that life happens, sometimes when you least expect it. While we had planned a few items on this list, others were more spontaneous.

When it rains in Florida, it pours. That’s exactly what has happened during this particular year with our expenses!

How Survived That Year

There are two key things we did to survive that particular year. The first was spending significantly less than we earned. This allowed us to have a huge cash flow surplus every month to deal with extra expenses.

The second was we saved our cash surplus in months where we didn’t need it. Whether we saved it in a targeted fund for our wedding, our honeymoon, a general purpose cash fund or our emergency fund, we saved for the future. We’re so glad we did.

Is there such thing as a normal budget month? Are your expenses always similar every month? How do you handle the odd months?

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

Comments

  1. Lance I would say yes and no. I mean if you work you know your salary and there are bills that are always going to be the same or around the same. For us our cell phone bills are usually no more than $200 water no more than $50 etc. We plan for the most that bills have ever been and use that as our ceiling. Sure things come up but we never budget to the limit. If our bills are 1000 we budget for 1500 so that there is an extra 500 we can save just in case things come up. Remember ish happens all the time which is why we never budget to the max meaning we make 1500 and we budget the whole 1500 to bills and expenses. When we closed on our home we had our down payment but to make the offer go through we ending up paying all closing costs. It wasn’t part of the budget but because we had money saved up it didn’t have to come from our monthly budget. It hurt savings but thats what we have savings for.

    I keep forgetting but arent you in Florida as well? Im thinking Fort Lauderdale or something? I have alot of friends that live off of Las Olas. This weather here is crazy pouring one minute and sunshine the next.

  2. Our budgets are all over the place, especially in the summer! It seems like there is always some extra expense to work in. Our summer budgets have been crazy this year. I am hoping that things get back to normal when Greg starts his new job.

  3. Stephen says:

    Normal being spending and making what you planned? Happens once in a while. More often when life becomes a little less dynamic.

  4. I can’t wait to read her wedding write-up. That’ll be a great piece! …and “normal?” I think you’re better off thinking of “different” as the new “normal.”

  5. Life has a boat load of moving parts, and when you start adding things like rental properties it can exacerbate it even more! I think normal is relative… And for us it tends to be on the bouncy side.

  6. Unplanned expenses such as medical costs are tough! It is a good reason for an emergency fund. Irregular income is much tougher! When I was in business, I tried to normalize a level of income whether using savings of the better months and using it during the lower months. Another alternative is to lower your expenses below the minimum income you are assured of. The new normal may be continue for some time.

  7. I agree. There’s definitely always something that comes up!!! It’s rare that we have a normal budget month over here too, but yall have really had some serious expenses this year! I bet you’ll have an awesome year next year with your rental income, the wedding behind you, and enjoying the new house!

  8. Justin @ The Family Finances says:

    “Normal” is a very vague idea when it comes to budgeting. Things pop up when you least expect them, and it’s very rare that our expenses will be the exact same month-to-month. However, this is where targeted savings accounts and an emergency fund come in. I have no idea when my car will need work done next (besides routine maintenance), so I designate a set amount from each paycheck to my car repair account. I do know where you’re coming from, though. We had a three-month period earlier this year when our water heater had to be replaced, we had some vet bills (including euthanisia), and I needed some car work done. They seem to come in waves.

  9. Since my wife and I are both self-employed our budget is always changing.

  10. Nope mine changes all the time, especially because I have a freelancers income, so I’m not always able to save the same, but like you I try to use good months to have surplus cash for those unexpected things…and they do seem to pop up each month. Ah life…

  11. eemusings says:

    Ha, yes, same here, especially with all of T’s medical issues over the past year. Same while we’re travelling; some days are outrageously expensive and others are cheap, depending on where we are and what we’re doing.

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