February 2012 Income and Expenses

February has been the month from hell. Between stagnant ad income and personal drama (which prevented me from completing freelance projects), it’s not exactly pretty. As with all the ugly aspects of my finances, though, I’m putting it out there anyway. Because that’s how I roll.

Luckily I was saved by my tax return and didn’t have to pull money from savings. But if March doesn’t go a little better from a financial standpoint, I may be looking for a J-O-B.



Private advertising: $750

Freelancing: $0

AdSense: $56.98 (This could change slightly by the end of today)

Tax Return: $1068 (Doesn’t technically count as income, but I got it this month so I’m counting it.)

TOTAL: $1874.98

Rollover from January

If you remember, I was $200 down when the month started, so there was no rollover this month. In fact, it takes my total income down to $1674.98.


Taxes: $133.40 ($1541.58 remaining)

This was 20% of the amount I actually earned ($806.98, minus $140 for health insurance since that’s a tax deduction).

Fixed expenses (car payment, insurance, utilities, phone, Jay’s allowance, etc.): $910 ($631.58) remaining)

I got to save $40 in this category since my son is grounded and can’t earn allowance right now.

Groceries/Household: $243.64 ($387.94 remaining)

This was better than last month but still ridiculous. I noticed that I made a lot of small trips for things like bread, milk, and snack foods (my nemesis!), which added up because I usually went to the convenience store down the street. Which means I threw in random candy and crap since I was already there. I definitely need to set limits on snack stuff - once it’s gone, it’s gone until I go to the store again. Not much I can do about bread and milk.

Restaurants: $42.92 ($345.02 remaining)

Still kicking butt with the restaurant points. For reference, in February 2011 I spent a little over $200 dining out.

Gas: $48 ($297.02 remaining)

Can you believe that? $48 for an entire month. Of course I’m going to need gas tomorrow, but still. So thankful for my little Yaris that gets 40mpg!

Cigarettes: $77.41 ($219.61 remaining)

This was a little lower than last month. That’s because I still have about half a carton left, so I divided the number of packs I smoked by the total cost of the carton. Cheating? Maybe a little. But the remaining packs will go into March, so I’ll pay for them eventually. And I did make a note of it so I won’t forget.

Miscellaneous: $136.85 ($82.76 remaining)

Someone please give me a gold star or something! This is probably the lowest miscellaneous spending I have EVER had in a month.

  • Haircut for Jayden - $11
  • Contact lenses - $27.90
  • iTunes (apps) - $7.39
  • Amazon (books about Asperger’s to help me with Jayden’s transition to high school) - $90.56

I really tried to watch myself this month because my income was so low and I wasn’t sure when I would get my tax refund. So this is proof - I CAN control my impulses when I have to. But I also got lucky because I didn’t have a bunch of events or unexpected expenses this month - I don’t know that the same will be true for March.

Overall Outlook for Month

Basically, this month taught me one major lesson - no matter how hectic life gets, I HAVE to complete my freelance work. It was one thing when I was also working a full time job (and a part time job for 4 months last year), but now this IS my job. I need to set firmer boundaries. Even when things are going on with my son (like the 400 emails I seem to get from school every day), I need to ask myself, Would I be dealing with this right now if I was at my old job?

It’s been really hard to divide my time appropriately. When one of the dog pukes or the hamper is overflowing or a friend needs help with something, it’s been hard for me to remain focused. The distractions have got to stop. I also have TWO other sites that need to be launched, yet they’ve been so neglected I’ll probably have to buy a Swiffer to dust them off. So I’ve got a lot of changing to do before I have to bust out the classified ads.

Here’s what I’m budgeting for March:

  • Taxes: 20% of whatever I make, transferred to a separate bank account
  • Fixed Expenses: $910
  • Groceries/Household: $225 (I got close this month!)
  • Restaurants: $50
  • Gas: $75
  • Cigarettes: $100
  • Miscellaneous: $150

That means I need $1510 after taxes, or $1812 total. There is a lot riding on this month, so please cross your fingers that I get it together and make some money like I did in January!


February 2012 Income and Expenses74 Comments

  1. Speaking of helping friends, I've heard that people who work from home are always being asked to do things for other people during the day because people figure "they're home and not working anyway."  Have you found this?

    • Yes, CONSTANTLY! I have spent so much time running errands and doing random stuff, I don't know how I ever held a full time job. I can't get anything done for taking care of "just one thing; it'll only take five minutes." Very frustrating!

      • Wow that would be extremely aggravating. My bf works the night shift, so people are constantly calling him during the day to ask him for help. It's super annoying.

          • I've wondered whether it was just me.  I'm a grad school corporate guy working about 50-60 hours per week on average with a wife and two kids.  Everyone in my family sees me as the "smart guy" who must know everything and asks me to write every letter anyone ever sends out, all investment, retirement, business or any other arrangement summaries and pretty much anything else you can think of!  (Wow, that was a long sentence).  I'm with you on how frustrating it is to be bombarded with "can you quickly do this for me" requests…

            Great to see you taking so much control Andrea!

      • I'd think you would have to start saying that you work from 8-5 or 7-6, or whatever it is, even though you are working from home, and that the boss is really demanding.  Maybe offer to help in the evening "after work" or something.  I'll bet that is a big part of your problem. 

        • I think the biggest part of the problem is that I have trouble working normal hours. I work from 9-3, stop to pick up my son from school, then work off and on from about 5 until 1 or 2 in the morning. It's really hard to give myself "off" time - I think someone would have to physically restrain me from the computer. I need to work on this!

          •  Most days I'm never really "done" working. It's hard to tear yourself away in the evening, or someone (an editor) e-mails you with a question, or you think "I haven't been reading other people's stuff and I should be," or a dozen other reasons not to sign off and take a walk, go to a movie, read a book, have a long hot bath….
            Work-life balance: I know it exists. I just don't know where it lives.

    • ALL THE TIME, here. Apparently, being a full-time student, running a household and starting a business and a blog do not count to the general masses as "work". 

      The "you're not working anyway" favor requests dwindled pretty rapidly when I started telling people that I'd be happy to help if they'd be willing to pay the day-rate I'd be giving up. :)

    • I found that when I was a SAHM.  Also my Hubs works from home as well.  Don't answer the phone, and turn off your personal emails during work hours. (or at least for 1 hour at a time)  it is so easy to get sucked in.  Maybe make a specific errand day.  I did that to save gas and it was a life saver as I cut down on stupid spending.

      • I've considered getting a prepaid phone or even VOIP and giving that number only to my parents and my son's school. That way I could turn off my personal phone during work hours. I've gotten used to ignoring it, but sometimes people surprise me (like people I haven't talked to in years, then it turns out they heard I'm at home and they need a babysitter or something).

    • It happens to me too! Then I tell people that I can't even go to my weekly yoga lesson because of deadlines, and that I have to do extra work during the week-end. End of the argument, as you can imagine.

  2. Turning off your phone and social media does wonders for me.  Really easy, too - and it's not like anything is ever that important.

    /hypocritical advice

      • I work from home a majority of the week.  What I did was answer the phone for friends and family but instead of 'hello,' I asked what the emergency was.  No emergency?  Merely responded that I would call them back in the evening to catch up.  It took 60 days but proved effective.

  3. Have you tried Baking your own bread?  This is a new kick I am on courtesy of Carla at
     Half Dozen Daily.  She takes all the mystery out of it.  I bought a bread machine at the thrift store for $4.00 and the flour and yeast at Winn Dixie.  Flour is cheaper at Aldi's.
    Anyway, by having the opportunity to bake my own bread it is one less reason I have to go to the store. And it is cheaper in the long run.  Just a suggestion :)

    • I'll have to check out Carla's post - I remember seeing it awhile back but I didn't really get to read it. It's very rare for me to try to make anything from scratch - I can barely boil water without setting my kitchen on fire! 

  4. GOLD STAR!!! 

    Looks like freelancing really makes a big difference for you, which makes sense.. Can you double up on the work next month?

  5. Good luch with March!  I found that for snack foods it really made me appreciate them more when I only allow myself what I buy during my grocery store run-I don't tend to eat them all like I did before.  Though-I've found popcorn that you buy as kernals and pop on the stove tend to last me forever.  I will freely admit that I could eat popcorn every day though. 

    • I love popcorn. That's something I need to buy the next time I go grocery shopping. Much healthier than most of the junk I've been eating! My biggest problem is forgetting to eat - I'll look up and it's midnight, so I eat a handful of chips or something instead of an actual meal. Might need to set an alarm to remind myself to eat real food.

  6. Your advertising income is great. Do you get that amount each month?

    I know how tough freelancing can be at the beginning but it is possible to do it. I'm not yet earning a full time income from freelancing but I'm working on it. Good luck!

  7. You did great in advertising income! Fingers crossed it gets better next month. If you look for a full-time job, would you go back to work as a therapist?

  8. Andrea, thank you for your honesty.  I think it is important for everyone to see that self-employment is not easy.  It takes dedication, hard work, and a LOT of luck.   There will always be good months and bad months.  So if nothing else, your experiences this month may keep a less-prepared person from jumping into something they may not be ready for.  I am sure March will be better for you!!!  Have you considered getting a part time job to help supplement your income?  I am thinking of something that wouldn't tax your brain too much - maybe something fun like working at a local garden center or clothing store for 10-12 hours a week.  It would give you a few hundred a month to cushion your bank account and still leave you the bulk of your time to grow your blogging business. 

    • There is a part time job in the works, but I'm not sure it will be as "part time" as I need it to be. (It's therapy related.) Something like a garden center or clothing store would be nice, but unfortunately we don't have either of those things here! It's hard to live in the middle of nowhere, but I'm sure I could find something to do.

  9. GOLD STAR!!!

    Looks like freelancing really makes a big difference for you, which makes sense.. Can you double up on the work next month?

    • Freelancing was always supposed to be the bigger part of my income. I just checked out mentally because I had too many things going on; mainly my son's school issues. I feel like March will be a better month - I'm ready to focus and get some things done!

  10. Well done for managing to fit in your income! And very sorry to hear that you have had a rough month. For what is worth, I think that we women have a bit more of a problem focusing on our work (or for that matter focusing exclusively on one thing) when something is going on with our children. I am rather 'manly' in this but even I have a big, unproductive day after an argument with my eleven years old son.

    Hope things improve soon; please do not give up the self employment - I know you could do it.

    • That's a good point and I'm so glad someone else deals with that. The idea of Jayden going to high school next year has absolutely CONSUMED me - I have cried and stressed and researched… I almost think I need another blog to talk about all that stuff! The fact that he's struggling makes it so hard to concentrate, even when I'm really motivated to work. I've had a hard time finishing posts, which has never happened. So I think if I can get him straightened out a little, March will be easier by far.

  11. I'm blown away that you are making it on $1600 a month.  I don't notice a house payment or rent, which I'm sure helps, but real impressive none-the-less.  There are a lot of folks making $10,000 per month who still don't make ends meet. 

    If you could get a book written, or get the freelance work to pick up, or find a different way to increase your income, it would be amazing where you'd be in 10 years.  You're a real inspiration.

    • Yes, it's definitely a huge help not to have a house payment. When I got divorced, my parents bought me a house, which is beyond generous. At some point, the plan is for me to buy it from them, but not until my income has stabilized and my credit has improved enough to get a mortgage. 

      I have big plans for several things this year; just a matter of learning to fit them all into my day. I think I'm going to try a different schedule for March - a certain focus on certain days of the week instead of trying to do everything at once. It seems like more I multitask, the less I accomplish.

      • Yes, that's what I'm trying to do at work.  The idea is to act lke a rhino, not a shark.  A shark in a school of fish will dash after one fish then the next one he sees, and end up just getting a mouthful of water.  A rhino will identify a problem, stomp on it until it goes away, then go back to what he was doing.  He concentrates on one thing until it is finished.

        That's my plan.  Now if I can just find a way to lock my cubicle so people stop coming in, pushing me off course.

  12. Andrea,
    I would like to know the general area that has a "very low cost of living".  I've been thinking about re-locating for a long time.  Also, how is the job market there?

    • Most of the Midwest (outside of the major cities) has a very reasonable cost of living.  Even if you work in a large city, but can commute for 45-60 minutes, you can often pay $100-200K for a great house.

    • Agreed. I'm a transplant to the midwest from SoCal. Job market where I am (in a "big" city lol) is pretty good. Cost of living is low. Housing prices are amazing. You can get a super nice house for 200k and a nice house for 150k. You just have to get used to having no beach and no fresh seafood. I love taunting my friends about my rent, but I'm not a nice person like that lol.

        • It depends on what you're used to dealing with. Consider some of the places I've lived. Average cost for a 1 bedroom apt in so cal in a nice neighborhood not populated by gangs, crackheads etc is around 1k/mo. In a nice neighborhood it would be more. Modest housing puchases are well over 200k. Nice homes in nice neighborhoods go for 3-400k or more. My grandparent's home would be close to 500k if it was put on the market and easily rents for 2k/mo and could get more. This is a 3 bed, 2 bath home with 2 car garage and pool. It's not huge by any means nor is it in some ritzy neighborhood.
          In the "big" city I live in in the midwest, I rent a nice 1 bed apt in an upscale neighborhood with all the amenities for under 600/mo. Modest housing in nice neighborhoods will run around 150k. A home like I described my grandparent's house would run about 250k or so and would have a basement because all houses have basements lol.
          If I didn't have mounds of credit card debt, I could make it on $1500 net (quick and dirty numbers), which includes housing, utilities, food, net, phone, cable, car, gas & insurance. For a single person, I'd say that's a pretty decent cost of living considering I'm not being that frugal with my cable, net or phone. Those could easily be cut down. There's no way that I could live alone in so cal and manage on what I net now, let alone 1500.

  13. I find I do better when I set a schedule. Although I work outside the home I work shift work, which means I'm often tasked with all the other "errands" on my days off - which has a direct impact on my ability to build my side business. If I set a schedule and make a list, I get more done.

    Good luck in March!

    • I make a to-do list for each day, each week, and each month, but I'm learning that I try to (1) cram too many things into the day and (2) focus on too many small projects at once. I think once I get a good schedule that works for me, things will go a lot smoother.

  14. Hi Andrea

    First time reading your blog. How do you read these numbers?

    Groceries/Household: $243.64 ($387.94 remaining)

    What does remaining means?

  15. I'm sorry that February was rough!  But it does sound like you're doing a great job of meeting your major goals. (PS: If your son is into reading, check out the book London Eye Mystery. The main character is on the autism spectrum, and it's an asset in solving a mystery). :)

  16. we all have rough months every once in a while, I think you are doing the right thing by tracking your expenses and understanding them fully

  17. Actually it is not too bad. If you cut down on snacking (goof for your wallet and your calories), and try to ration cigarettes (how many do you smoke a day?), it might be not too bad. When I was a heavy smoker, I was flying though a almost a pack a day. Then I decided it is way too much money. I rationed my cigarettes pretty well and cut down on smoking a bit. Have you tried that?

  18. Good luck with the new month! Keep at it. If you need more freelance work, I might be able to help you with that.

  19. You are doing really well, Andrea.. That was quite a leap of faith that you took in quitting your day job to jump into the blogo-world full time.. Fortune favors the bold, ya know?.. I am sure that March will go better.

    Interesting to me that your ad revenue varies so wildly month to month.. I thought you wrote a ton of great stuff in February, so I am sure that your readership was solid..

  20. As a grad student about to graduate I can say its really hard working from home… turn off the phone and email and set timed tasks.  When you finish a task you get a break, but not before……    I also recommend you have a dedicated space for work.  when you sit there you focus on work… when you sit on a sofa you relax.  its odd, but the two don't mix.  :)

    Regardless, you are still an inspiration because you are bringing income in with your blog.  I hope to be there someday, too.

    • I'm working with a different schedule this week and so far I seem to be getting more accomplished. I'm hoping to write a post about it, assuming it continues! And don't worry about the income - it will happen. Just takes some time. :)

  21. For someone who is putting their financial game at the forefront; you've got some habits a lot of people would frown upon. Smoking is the first one, I can't imagine how many times someone must have bounced you off the wall for that one. At least it's budgeted. Another one is picking up snacks. I love me some gummy snacks at the check out line.

    Anyways, What I am trying to say is that I have gained even more respect for you. You've become even more real to me(I didn't think you were fake before). You've got real habits that some people may not like and even though they are detrimental to your finances and probably your health, you do the next best thing and budget for them. I can respect that.

    We are five days into March. I hope it reaps a lot of success for you.

    • Thanks for your honest feedback. I always appreciate your comments because I know you'll say what you think. My thought is always this - I could lie and put out a perfect picture of my spending and excellent choices each month, but what would be the point in doing it? I want people to know that I'm still not perfect, and I'm DEFINITELY not trying to be frugal or minimalist. I just want to quit wasting money on stupid crap so I can buy the things I want. Some people think that's terrible and I'm okay with that.

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