Month in Review: August 2023

Every month, I track my spending and share them openly here. In my Month in Reviews, I go over notable (and often discretionary expenses) for the month and reflect on some key areas of life tied to money, either directly or indirectly: career, health, relationships and personal growth.

Spending Breakdown

When I wrote about taking my career break a couple of months ago, I talked about how I was going to downgrade my lifestyle so that I could stick to the Break budget I’ve set for myself. 

It may have been a bit too idealistic because that didn’t actually happen in August. 

In August I spent about $4,000, which was $1,000 higher than what I budgeted for the month. It is not any less than what I would have spent on a normal month when I was working full-time. 

So, let’s take a look at why this happened. 

Health expenses 

First, I had (surprise, surprise) unexpected health expenses that cropped up in August. If I’m being totally honest, when I was forecasting my Break budget, I didn’t want to jinx myself by factoring in health costs. But after months of dealing with recurring health issues, maybe I have to accept that I will have more medical expenses than I’d like to in a given year. 

Dealing with medical maladies these past couple of years got me thinking about how nobody talks about how to manage money and retire well while managing recurring or chronic pain or illness. Probably because it’s such a sensitive topic and most people, myself included, don’t want to sound like they’re fishing for people’s sympathies.

But I feel it’s a very real issue that gets conveniently overlooked by KOLs in the personal finance space. Perhaps I’ll tackle the subject one day. 

Socialised a bit too much

While medical expenses were unexpected, there were other expenses that I kind of deliberately went over budget on. Food and drinks are one of them. And that’s because I did so much socialising this past month. 

One of my goals for this break was to network and meet people and that meant dinners and coffee sessions. I wanted to learn more about what drives people to do what they do with the hope that it would spark some ideas for me too.

This past month, I met with people who:

  • pivoted careers
  • left/leaving their jobs to pursue something new
  • were in companies I was interested in joining
  • prospective clients for my freelance gig
  • were interviewing me for roles

It was a full month, needless to say. I definitely underestimated how much networking I would end up doing. 

But it’s really amazing to hear other people’s stories and I gained a lot of value and insight from hearing about their journeys. 

Invested in personal development 

I took up pottery in August. I’ve always wanted to try a “practical hobby”. One where I use my hands to create something, as opposed to creating something abstract or online (like writing a blog). 

I must say I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s helping train my focus. It has the added benefit of helping reduce my screen time since my hands are covered in wet clay for a full 3 hours and I can’t use my phone. 

And when a form starts to take shape, I feel quite satisfied. It’s very therapeutic. 

So far I’ve created very simple structures like cups and bowls. Nothing too fancy, but hoping to get better at it so that I can try different forms like vases, pots, and so on.

Upgraded my desk setup and bought some camera gear

Since I am starting to work from home more, I wanted a more conducive setup. 80% of my desk setup was actually gifted or handed down to me by my partner. I just wanted to buy a nice ergonomic keyboard and mouse to go with it all. 

At the same time, I wanted to try my hand at making short-form videos and add “video making” to my repertoire of generalist skills. It was fun learning how to craft content for video, and then filming and editing them on my own. Even bought myself a lapel mic. 

Then, I had the regrettable idea of starting a TikTok account doing videos with quick bite-sized economic news. My account gained a bit of traction when the algorithm started picking up my content. It was exciting at first but very quickly I started to dislike the attention. 

Plus it didn’t seem like a sustainable way to create content, seeing as you have to post on the platform every day to keep the traction that you’ve created. 

So as the month wore on, I stopped enjoying it. I still like the “making the videos” part, but not so much the platform. I haven’t decided if I will stop doing them completely. But let’s just say this experiment is put on hold for now. 

Income to make up for the extra expenses

Thankfully, I did make some money last month to help cover some of my expenses. This meant that I used LESS of my Break Fund than I originally planned. 

Regardless, I definitely could have done better at estimating how much I was going to spend on networking and one-off big tickets. I’m going back to my budget to see if I need to adjust some numbers to account for such things over the next few months. 

I’ll have to estimate how much more networking I’ll be doing in the coming months and factor that in. And as I intend to continue with pottery, I will also have to factor the workshop fees into the budget as well.

Despite going over budget, I honestly don’t regret any of the spending decisions I made. Yes, a lot of it is discretionary spending I can do without. But, to me, they were investments I made for my personal and career growth. 

And let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be a very fruitful break if I didn’t put myself out there and explore the things I wanted. 

My mistake was not foreseeing that I needed slightly more money than I anticipated. I’m not going to beat myself up over it but instead find ways to make the new budget work – like doing more freelance gigs, or selling some pre-loved items. 

Better to make your budget work for your life than shape your life around your budget. 

How did your August pan out?  How do you deal with unexpected expenses that crop up in your budget? How do you budget for things that contribute to your career or personal growth?

Share with me in the comments, or come say hi on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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