Monthly Budget Planning: February 2018 Preplan

I tried to start budgeting around November of last year but I just wasn’t able to make it work. I understood the theory of budgeting and started using the YNAB. I enjoyed looking at where my money was going but couldn’t seem to stop myself from breaking the budget. Not in one category. In all my categories. Apparently, budgeting doesn’t work if you aren’t 100% honest with yourself.

The problem?

I wasn’t 100% honest with where all my money was going. Little bits were being spent without being tracked. I didn’t have enough categories to properly account for everything I need and I even forgot to include a few reoccurring bills.

Between the end of November and now ( the end of January) I have just tried to not spend too much. With the great gray beast of February starting tomorrow it is time to get in gear so the rest of 2018 can move us toward our financial goals.

A little look back:

Good news is we came out of the Christmas Holidays with a nice bank balance. Which we will add to now, going into Valentine’s Day. We put all the income from Porter & Hazel into a separate account and take monthly distributions to live off of so we can be sure we can still pay for life during the slow months. One of our goals this year is to diversify our income so slow months are less of a problem. But for now, this ensures our future survival without having to get a regular job.

On Monday I deposited $6000 into my bank account to last through February. Somewhere around the last week of February, I’ll do the same thing to get me through March.  Though hopefully, I’ll be able to deposit less. We’ll see.

Category Breakdown


Housing: Budgeted: $2390.01

This includes my mortgage and all of the bills that it takes to run the house like sewer, trash, gas, electric. Unfortunately, there isn’t much room to save money in this category for the month of February. We have a 15-year mortgage so even though we bought our home for around $150k our mortgage is almost $1700 a month. High but a bit of perspective for this expensive category.

My gas bill is quite high this month. Probably means I forgot to pay it last month. December is crazy for us, so that is entirely possible. However, that does mean that I’ll be able to have this category be lower for March.

I do overpay on my mortgage every month including February (already made the payment). But I’m serious about debt relief so starting in March I’m going to pay the required amount and put that extra towards a credit card.

Health & Fitness: Budgeted $918.36

This category is a bit of a guesstimate. I saw a Get Rich Slowly review of YNAB and he used a health & fitness category which kind of blew my mind. Like Duh. Of course, medical expenses don’t just go in with regular expenses. Especially since this is a pretty big area for my family. Thankfully this area will go down quite a bit after February.  Spending $250 on an emergency room visit is a hard to swallow but sometimes those things are unavoidable. The other big guesstimate is what to set aside for prescriptions. We don’t spend $100 on prescriptions a month, but I put that into the category because I am on a pricey medication that will have to be refilled in the next month or two. So I’ll use what I need and put the rest toward future refills, and add to this category again next month.

True Expenses: 148.48

This category contains items that are important and non-negotiable. But this also means this category is flexible. This month my daughter needs a few things but hopefully, she’ll find a job soon and then I will be able to pay less for her life. This is where I also track my dwindling extra money. The oh so lovely “stuff I forgot to budget for” category is down to $25. While looking over the budget for this post I realized I forgot my the car inspection, my health insurance, gas for the car, and a few other things.

Credit Card Debt Payments:$413 minimum payment, $628.13 paid.

This was actually higher than I thought it would be. But that’s ok because it includes an additional $215 towards our lowest card paying it off! Woot!

Next month I’ll finish paying off our next lowest card (which currently has a balance of $77 and then throw the rest onto our Discover card which has balance (before this month’s payment) of $624. Hopefully, by then we will be pulling in some extra cash from side hustles and we can throw more money at the debt.

Other Categories

Automotive: $345.52 – car payment, gas, and maintenance

Phone Bill: $147.60

Student Loans: $463.33

Charity: $60.00

Travel: $100
After Valentine’s Day, we are going up to New York to see some family. This should cover the gas and other expenses while we are up there. Honestly, we might not spend this at all. So I might be able to apply this elsewhere in the latter half of the month!

Final Thoughts

Being this nitty gritty about my budget makes me feel responsible and very adult. So much so that I can’t see why everyone doesn’t want to do this. This is much less stressful than just ignoring my money all and hoping it works out. I feel a little like I should get an award for adulting.

My biggest struggle is not comparing my beginning to the current successes of other bloggers. I couldn’t run my house on $3,000 if I tried. My house isn’t 1500 sq ft. Sometimes looking at the budgets where people are saving over half of their income is crazy!!! I feel like I’ll never get there.

For now, I just have to accept where we are in this process and keep moving forward to the life we want.

Book Review: You Need A Budget by Jesse Mecham

You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want*

By Jesse Mecham.  Publisher: Harper Business

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Think of a budget as a lifestyle-design blueprint. It’s a working plan for taking your life from where you are now to where you really want to be: Zero debt. Homeownership. Retirement plans. Travel. More money for eating out. Much less frustration and anxiety. Pick a goal that speaks to you and budget your way to success!

In this indispensable guide—the first book based on the successful tenets of the award-winning financial platform—you’ll be given the tools to learn how to track your expenses, stick to a spending plan, and make your money work for you. 

By learning to budget, you can finally break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, become debt-free, and save more. As Jesse Mecham shows, a budget won’t make you feel more restricted—it will make you feel free. You Need a Budget outlines his four simple rules to completely revolutionize the way you think about managing your money: 

1. Give every dollar a job. Take your cash, checking, and savings accounts and assign jobs to that money. Begin now with what you have on hand. Pick your priorities and make sure your dollars are helping you move closer to the things you really care about.

2. Embrace your true expenses. Identify your larger, less-frequent expenses—such as insurance premiums, birthdays, holidays, car repairs—and break them into manageable monthly amounts. This will help you even out your spending, decrease your stress, and make better decisions.

3. Roll with the punches. Life always changes and unexpected expenses happen. If you need to change your budget, just do it. The YNAB philosophy not only tolerates changing your budget; it encourages it.

4. Age your money. Increase the time between earning and spending, and finally, break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

These four rules are the pillars of a tried-and-true system that keeps you engaged with your money. Following the rules, you’ll learn to adjust your habits, become proactive, and ultimately control your finances. Say goodbye to stressing over last month’s statement and say hello to taking charge and finally building the life you want.

Budgeting means that, soon enough, you’ll have money sitting around (just in case your car or home needs a repair), and finally be able to do the things you’ve been dreaming about—like take a Hawaiian vacation with your honey—knowing that the rest of your life is covered.

In November I started a free trial of the YNAB budgeting software. I love the flexibility of the system but I struggled to get a hang how to make it work for us, so when I saw the release of a YNAB book I preordered it to my kindle hoping for help and an insight to the YNAB method so I could get control of our budget better.

I love knowing where our money is going and seeing debt being paid off, yet I still stress out like crazy when I know I have to sit down and pay bills. Watching all that money just go poof is depressing.  I know its important, but I am still building our systems and I still want to avoid looking at the numbers. The stress of trying to sit down and deal with money is SO much worse than the actual budgeting.

In the introduction, Jesse says, “ when we’re stressed about our finances, its because we’re not sure our money decisions are aligned with the life we want to be living”. I can still feel the ring of truth to this deep in my heart. The reason I spend money the way I do is because I don’t have a concrete goal for the life I want to be living. I have a general idea and a hope that it will magically happen some day. But taking the responsibility to change my behaviors to ensure I reach those goals is a new thought for me.


Most budgeting systems are controlling, and strict. With little flexibility. They seem to focus on reducing spending by cutting out all non-essential items.  Instead of asking “can I afford this?” YNAB encourages you to ask yourself, “does this move me closer to my goals?”

The difference between the two is a mindset switch from deprivation to empowerment. I am not avoiding the things I love because I can’t afford them, but I am choosing to make or skip a purchase because I have a specific goal in mind.


If you are new to budgeting you should read this book. Simple as that. It doesn’t drown you with tons of personal finance knowledge and focuses on the personal aspect of personal finance.  While Jesse encourages readers to slay debt, he also believes we all need to make the decisions that are best for us.

After covering the four core concepts the book goes over some specific situations like budgeting as a couple, getting out of debt, and teaching kids budgeting. Along the way, there are examples from real-world people that help illustrate the philosophy and how it can be implemented by real people – not personal finance experts.

Surprisingly, the book is NOT a marketing tool for the YNAB Software platform. Jesse openly admits that you could use a spreadsheet program to meet all your budgeting needs. That being said after reading the book I feel more ready and able to use the YNAB platform to reach my financial goals.

Plans for the New Year: 2018 Goal Setting

Hello. I haven’t introduced myself properly. My name is Jessica. I’m self-employed. I work with my husband making custom leather jewelry we sell as Porter & Hazel. When I started this blog I wanted to be anonymous. I was (am?) ashamed of my debt. While working our long holiday hours I decided on a plan of action for 2018 and to do it justice I needed to be me. And not a pen name. So here I am, warts and all.

After all, debt is the new black right?

For me, the holidays aren’t a happy go lucky, spread cheer everywhere, kind of season. At Porter & Hazel, we get A LOT of orders between Black Friday and Christmas. And we work super long hours to try to get everyone their orders before the holiday.

Watching money come in is always fun. Especially with our goal of paying off our debt. But that doesn’t make the work easier. For us, the holidays are sixty plus hour weeks and we collapse at the end.

It is now almost two weeks into January and I am finally starting to breathe. I’m getting over exhaustion and I can finally destress and start to figure out what my life will be in 2018.

The Science of New Years Goals

According to the New York Times, “By Jan. 8, some 25 percent of resolutions have fallen by the wayside. And by the time the year ends, fewer than 10 percent have been fully kept.” This does not give any of us great chances of reaching our goals.

Early in life, I was told that to succeed I would need a lot of willpower. And when willpower isn’t enough, someone decided you needed to have “grit” as well. Grit is the difference between people who can set and keep goals, and the rest of us. The research on grit is less than enthusiastic about its importance. The article goes on to say that “people who are better at using self-control have more success when it comes to resisting temptations but at a cost to their health. They suffered from increased stress responses and premature aging of their immune cells”.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, you can even overthink yourself into failure. Research done by  NYU Professor of Psychology Gabriele Oettingen indicates too much visualizing success can be a problem. “The more positively people fantasize and daydream about their future success, the less well they do in terms of having actual success,”. The act of visualizing isn’t the problem. We start to impact our success by focusing on ourselves as already having reached goals instead of overcoming the obstacles it will take to get there.  The feelings gained from visualization don’t last as long but maybe that doesn’t matter. When facing a large task short bursts of imagined happiness can be enough to deter us from working hard.

Awesome right?

Thankfully, there is some good news. David Destino, a psychology professor at Northeastern University, has done studies that show positive emotions such as pride, gratitude, and compassion help renew us and strengthen our willpower. Choosing actions that create positive emotions has more impact than we realize. Emotions such as pride, gratitude, & compassion improve our perseverance, “and have been tied to a greater willingness to exercise and eat healthily, and lower levels of consumerism, impulsivity, and tobacco and alcohol use.”

Goals for 2018

What you need to know reading my 2018 goals is that for me the past few years have been total shit. Full of stress and stress and then some more stress. I have finally hit the point where it is too much and I have to change and I have picked Five areas to work on.

After my research on new years resolutions, I want to focus on positive emotions. Having a sense of community and creating projects that help other people is a good place to start.

1. Build Eighty-Six Debt

First, I’m going to focus on building Eighty-Six Debt. This blog will help me keep on track with my financial goals, and give me a platform to connect and interact with others. In the past, I have given up all my blog projects after about 2 months. To prevent blogging burn out I’ve signed up for FinCon 2018 in Florida. I now have a commitment that I hope will help me force myself to stick with it and build this blog. I’m conscious of not over scheduling and I want to prioritize quality over quantity. I am going to start the year writing two posts a week and will reevaluate in 6 months.

Other Blog Related Goals:

– Write 1-2 guest posts a month

– Start & grow a newsletter list

– Build a presence on Facebook & Pinterest

2. Start a new business.

This goal is inspired by my fellow personal finance bloggers. I completely agree with the belief that to get out of debt I need to clean up my spending and know where my money goes. Yet, the real secret to getting out of debt fast is in making more money. So I need a “side hustle” (a term I HATE).

Many bloggers talk about side hustles by suggesting low paying, low reward activities. I cringe when someone suggests filling out surveys, walking dogs & delivering papers. Technically, you’ll make money but the time cost is high and the pay is way to low to be a realistic suggestion. 

Next week I will be starting a Building a Side Business series, where I share the whole process from scratch. A lot of side hustle reports focus on income generated from a blog, which is great if you want to build a business with writing. However, I’ve had way more success without a blog than I’ve ever had with one. So I want to share the process of building an online business that doesn’t focus on writing. I have plans for both digital downloads, and physical products. I will use popular platforms like Etsy & Shopify. I’m  also considering a Kickstarter campaign. I’ve never used Kickstarter, but I’d like to see to see what kind of success an entrepreneur without a HUGE following can achieve.

Lists of 75 side hustle ideas a great starting point. But I want to go deeper on how to start and run a side business.

3. Paying down as much debt as possible.

This is a goal that is affected by the previous two. Building this blog and a new business will bring in extra money that will go towards debt. First credit card debt, then our car loan, and fully funding at least one of our retirement funds. After we meet those financial goals we will start attacking student loan debt like our lives depend on it.

Chris and I are seriously considering selling our home and moving into a smaller home that has a tenant to help keep our mortgage costs down. I’m sure that will throw a HUGE wrench in the flow of life, but financially it is going to really help us get out of debt faster.

4. Lose Weight.

I am overweight by more than I’m ready to admit here on this blog. I need to get healthy this year. I’ve broken out a few mini goals:  working out 4x a week and eating healthier. To be more specific with my food I will eat less bread & pasta, and increasing vegetable intake. All my food will be tracked using My Fitness Pal. If you care to join me on MFP I’m Kaleisi21. And I’m on Run Keeper as Kaleis

5. Learn French.

This is the least related to improving my day to day life, but it is the goal that brings me the most joy. Not only because I love the French language, but because it also makes me feel like I am moving closer to my goal of living in Québec. I started learning French in college and I have studied on and off since then. 2018 will be the beginning of my first serious attempt to become fluent in a second language.