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This January 2022 budget review is part of a monthly series of posts in which I share our family’s real budget and real spending so that you can follow our journey toward reaching our financial goals. I create these budget reviews firstly because I find it useful to take a moment to reflect. And secondly because I like to imagine that it may be helpful to others to see how one family budgets.

 

Background

 

As I’ve introduced in past posts, we are a multicultural family living in South Korea. My husband is Korean, earns in Korean won, and is in the process of switching careers to get into real estate. I’m American, and I run a private test prep tutoring business online back in the US. My income is in US dollars.

January of course marks the beginning of the near year. Before the year started, I created a one year spending plan with all of our projected income, our financial goals for the year, and our projected spending.

January ended up surpassing expectations, although not for the reasons I anticipated. My husband’s career change got pushed back another month, which means that our car purchase also got pushed back. However, we were also able to find a significant amount of extra income, in part due to an old paycheck from 2009 that I was able to recover from the New Jersey Unclaimed Property office. (You can read more about that story here.)

So overall, we ended up making decent progress toward our goals for the year.

 

Business Income

 

Since I work in test prep, January is nearly always the slowest month in my business. It’s just after college applications are due, and it’s also fairly late in the law school application cycle.

Nevertheless, this January was a bit different. Because I had a lot of LSAT students taking the mid-January test, I had a very full tutoring schedule for the first two weeks of the year. My January lull didn’t set in until after that.

But even if January had been as slow as it usually is, we would have still been ok because I use the Profit First system for my business. (Twice a month, I divide up all the revenue received during that period. It goes into separate accounts set aside for Owner’s Comp, Taxes, Profit, Operating Expenses, and Professional Development.)

And starting this month, I was able to give myself a sizable “raise” in what I pay myself from my business based on my projections for how I expect my tutoring business to go this year.

2022 January Profit First
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My target was an aggressive $5000 for the month, about double what I made in January 2020 and January 2021. My reasoning was that those previous years had both involved extenuating circumstances, like international move and morning sickness in 2020, and the resulting baby and another impending international move in 2021.

I actually ended up with $6564, thanks to a ridiculously full tutoring schedule the first two weeks of the year.

  • Business Revenue: $6564
  • Profit: $131
  • Owner’s Comp: $4135 (This refers to the amount I set aside for my own pay, but my own paycheck is always a set amount each month.)
  • Taxes: $1181 set aside for federal income taxes
  • Operating Expenses: $558
  • Professional Development: $558

 

Additional Income

 

As I have done previously, I’ve blocked out below our individual incomes for privacy reasons. And as with previous months, part of our extra income includes a 250,000 won (about $213) benefit from the Korean government for our toddler.

2022 January Income
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The rest of our extra income this month far surpassed what we expected. We expected a reclaimed 2009 paycheck and a $100 bonus for making a $50 deposit into an investment account through Fidelity. 

We also received some money through a couple of surveys, some editing work I did for a friend, some leftover birthday money that I decided to just throw into my personal spending sinking fund, and another $100 bonus for opening a new high-yield savings account (at Digital Credit Union – which has an impressive 6.7% APY on the first $1000 in savings). Not bad!

 

Major Financial Goals

 

I keep our major financial goals at the top of my budget spreadsheet because I believe in committing ahead of time to the minimum amount I want to save toward these goals. As the month progresses, we then revisit those amounts and make adjustments. The goal is usually to devote every extra penny here.

2022 January Major Financial Goals
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This month, thanks to our additional income, we were able to exceed our goals in these saving categories.

  • Retirement savings: $1300 into my 2021 Roth IRA (I spent 2021 wondering whether I should save for retirement in a Roth account or in a Traditional retirement account. I had been using my Traditional Solo 401k, but I decided recently that I want to start prioritizing my Roth IRA instead. Since I hadn’t made any IRA contributions for 2021 – only Solo 401k contributions, I still have $6000 worth of IRA contributions I can make before April 15th this year, so that’s what my goal is. I’ll be able to make the 2022 contribution up until April of 2023, so it’s in my best interest to make the 2021 contribution now while I still have the chance.)
  • Brokerage: We were anticipating the $100 bonus for creating a Fidelity account, but also ended up throwing an additional $25 into our brokerage account while stocks were down.
  • Emergency fund: We aren’t agressively adding to our emergency fund at the moment. Our contribution here was just the $100 bank bonus from Digital Credit Union, plus the interest generated in our High-Yield Savings Accounts.
  • Vacations/flights: $150 into saving for vacations
  • New car: $761.49 into saving for a car (This is where every last cent went.)
  • New apartment deposit: Nothing for this month, since the car purchase will happen sooner.

It’s a lot of goals to juggle, but aside from the bonuses we received for opening new accounts, we are really only contributing to three of these goals right now. We’re making a slow and steady increase to our vacation fund, but we’re hitting the retirement savings and the car savings much more aggressively.

 

Normal Expenses

 

Our January was honestly a little boring, and so we ended up staying under budget in quite a few categories. In our original budget, I had assumed we would be purchasing a car mid-month, so I included funds for car insurance and gas. We didn’t end up needing to make the purchase just yet, so that unused money went toward our goals.

2022 January Normal Expenses
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Some notable points:

  • Gas for our apartment: Ugh, too expensive, but what can you do when it’s really cold? Plus, I’ve discovered that turning up the heat by even just one degree at about 2am helps our extremely early-riser toddler sleep more soundly until about 5:15am. When he sleeps past 5am, we ALL do better. In my mind, that’s worth way more than what this month’s gas bill was.
  • Groceries/Eating Out: I’m proud of us here. I have an inner ear disorder requiring me to eat a very low sodium diet, and in order to get that condition back under control, I’ve been making an effort to avoid takeout and to make more low-sodium crockpot and freezer meals. It’s helping our budget as well.
  • Babysitter: We ended up adding an extra few hours, which put us a tiny bit over budget.

 

Sinking Funds

2022 Jan Sinking Funds
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We use sinking funds for expenses that are more discretionary and that vary from month to month. Notable items:

  • Gifts/Holidays + Personal Spending: I normally give myself $25/month. I’m not a big spender and would rather put more toward our goals. This month was my 40th birthday, and so we used the $30 in our brand new Gifts/Holidays sinking fund, along with some birthday money from my parents, to buy a food processor. (I love it!) I took the leftover birthday money as my spending money for the month.
  • Toddler Personal Spending: My husband’s back and neck are still causing him a lot of pain, so we’re continuing to use disposables for our 18 month old instead of using our cloth diapers. It’s one easy way we can cut down on household chores to give my husband more time to relax. Costs more, though, so we increased the amount going into our toddler’s sinking fund.
  • Healthcare Expenses: This is more than we had been adding to this fund in 2021, but we’ll keep it high until my husband’s back and neck get better. (And until the omicron wave dies down. Just in case.)
  • Car Repairs: Since we don’t actually have the car yet, saving for the car purchase is more important than saving for car repairs, so the budgeted money here got redirected.

 

Overall Update

 

This month was a great start to the year. Thanks to an unexpectedly high income, we were able to make more progress than we thought we would be able to.

To check in on the goals I set for January:

  • Save $1000 for retirement and $600 for a car (prioritizing the car over the apartment deposit since it’s more immediate) – SURPASSED
  • Stay under budget in groceries, eating out, and coffee – DONE
  • Create more cushions in the budget to account for unknowns regarding my husband’s job search and our car purchase – DONE
  • Business: $5000 in revenue – SURPASSED

 

Money Goals for February 2022

 

Anytime now, my husband will be able to make his career change official. When that happens, we’ll have big changes in our budget, with bigger childcare expenses and a car purchase. February’s budget includes some extra cushion and contingencies, but will overall be a much tighter month than January.

Our main goals for February include:

  • Save $1000 for retirement and over $400 for a car 
  • Stay under budget in groceries, eating out, and coffee
  • Business: $6500 in revenue

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