How My Monthly Budget Looks in 2004

I kept track of every penny I spent so I could really get a fix on my budget and my spending habits and make sure I was living sustainably under the tax-line. For me, this means that I should spend less than $15,000 per year.

The results of my anally-retentive record-keeping were encouraging. But , my health insurance has moved me into a more expensive age bracket, and I’ve moved to new housing with lower rent and a different set of utility bills.

So I’ve gone and done it again:

Category’s 30-day total’s 30-day totalNotes
$13,991 / year$10,824 / year


Some of these numbers are more guesstimated than others. I didn’t include any expenses that were directly related to my home business or my contracting job that I can deduct from my income because they won’t count against my $15,000 limit.

* , I can deduct 100% of my health insurance premiums from my income for federal income tax purposes since I’ll be earning my keep as a self-employed contractor. So although I’ve included the number here for comparison, this amount is not included in my yearly total.
A: ’s total may have been understated because I didn’t amortize equipment installation costs. I’ve spread the installation costs over one year for ’s figure. I had “cell phone” as its own line-item.
B: My discipline was poor on this . Over , I’ve spent $140 on 13 restaurant meals, ranging from a $2.25 burrito to a $25 sushi dinner (average meal cost: $10.75). In that same span, I’ve had 107 home-prepared meals made with $130 worth of groceries (average meal cost: $1.20).
C: Plus milk, sugar, coffee-filters, etc.
D: I tried to keep track of every time I was being hit directly by the California sales tax (and the CRV bottle tax). , I just absorbed the tax into the cost of whatever was being taxed. my state income tax rate was about 0.7%, while this number puts my state sales tax rate at about 2%. There is some talk of changing the federal tax law so that you can deduct the higher of your state sales or income tax (currently you can only deduct the state income tax), so that’s part of my motivation for keeping track of this.
E: Yep, the feds got me. When I carpool with someone, I often pick up the tab for gasoline, and when I do I pay a federal excise tax on it. Also, there’s a federal excise tax on alcoholic beverages. I didn’t account for these taxes separately but just wrapped them in to the “transportation” and “beer/wine/spirits” categories.
F: this got wrapped into utilities since we had a washer & dryer at home. year, I’ve got to hike my stuff to the laundromat.
G: , wrapped into “other.” , amplified by extra vaccinations and flea stuff, as my new home is surrounded by a veritable urban wildlife habitat including families of squirrels, opossums, and raccoons.
H: This includes a new smoke detector, a curtain rod, spackle, and some other things for the new home, the cost of printing out and faxing in a health insurance application, a donation to NWTRCC, etc.
rent $421.50$360.00
electricity/gas $15.00 $10.00
phone/internet $45.14 $38.55A
television $12.50
water $11.50 $10.00
food (groceries) $149.99 $98.92
food (prepared) $48.61 $106.53B
beer/wine/spirits $84.68 $23.02
coffee $18.66 $4.57C
health insurance $231.25($330.00)*
transportation $60.87 $57.83
medical/toiletries$16.55 $14.69
website hosting $12.61 $12.61
magazine subs $3.50 $2.50
state taxes $24.38D
federal taxes $4.65E
laundry $6.59F
cat stuff $26.12G
haircut/clothes $9.50
other/unusual $33.57 $86.61H

So I’m well below the $15k threshold . The lowered rent helped, but the best part is being able to deduct my health insurance premium from my income as a contractor. I couldn’t do this income came from being a salaried employee.

I think also that this month’s expenses were unusually high because I was moving in to a new home, so hopefully this will drop some now that I’m settled. Also, I continue to search for a new health insurance plan that will have a lower premium and that will allow me to take advantage of a tax-free Health Savings Account. And I’m redoubling my commitment to make my meals at home.

I’ve added a new RSS feed to the site, linked from the “RSS 1.0” graphic in the box to the left. The nice thing about this one is that it includes both a summary of the Picket Line entries and also the complete entries, so you can read The Picket Line in an RSS aggregator if that suits your fancy.

The site redesign looks fine for me at home on Mozilla 1.4 and Konqueror. A friend of mine says it looks fine on IE too. But I got email from another friend who says on Mozilla 1.7 the two layout columns overlap. I don’t have any feedback yet from users of Safara, Opera, et al., and IE on Macintosh is apparently a much different beast than its Windows namesake, so I’m eager to hear how that looks.

I’ve got to say that the more I learn CSS the more I like HTML. I remember when every browser had its own little proprietary HTML tags and attributes and you were never sure how your page was going to look. Then things started to solidify on a standard, and today when I write in XHTML-Transitional I pretty much know it’s gonna look okay everywhere.

Now with CSS, it’s the same old headaches but magnified. It’s amazing how not-right they managed to get it this time around. It’s such a hack. All these little “Opera does it like this, but you can exploit a bug in the Mac version of IE to hide the Opera stuff from it, and this other browser incorrectly skips attributes with backslashes in their names so you can hide things from it that way…” This is the future of web publishing?

Nevertheless, I’m going to try to muddle through. I could write this site using only XHTML-Transitional with no CSS at all. It would look pretty much the same (the only visible effects I can think of that I couldn’t reproduce without CSS would be the behavior of the cursor when hovering over tags with “title” attributes and the forced removal of the underlining text-decoration on links). But I’d like to learn this stuff, as kludgy as it seems.

I’d appreciate feedback. If something on The Picket Line looks not-quite-right to you, could you leave a comment or write me an email telling me what the symptoms are (and what browser you’re using)?