As promised here is a little lot more detail on our $60,755 of expenses from 2016.
Let’s take a look at these by category:
The largest piece of the Home category was Mortgage Interest. I didn’t include mortgage principal as an expense; instead I plugged it as savings in the Where Did It Go post tracking our cash outflows. Paying principal feels more like saving than spending – my reasoning might be flawed, but whatever, doesn’t matter, we paid off our mortgage in early 2017 so we won’t have a mortgage expense going forward no matter how you slice it.
Utilities break down as follows: Water $745, Electric $697, and Natural Gas $477. Our utilities seem pretty reasonable to me. We don’t try to moderate use in any way, we’re just fortunate to live in a small house that was built < 10 years ago making it pretty energy efficient. My dad was the stereotypical thermostat nazi and I vowed to never live that way. So far so good.
The biggest contributor to Maintenance is lawn care. I used a lawn service in 2016 which set us back $700, but I’ve since reclaimed this chore. Our HOA fees are the other major component at an absurd $500 a year. This category makes me cranky – we’re spending $1,200 a year on a lawn and community pool, neither of which we use.
Home Insurance will be a little less expensive for us in 2017. One of the major benefits of tracking every dollar is it really causes you to evaluate what you’re spending money on. When I revisited our home insurance spending I realized we were paying for a lot of features we would never need. I actually brought our home and car insurance spends down quite a bit, which I can cover in a future post.
Merchandise is a little bit of new décor, but mostly shelving and organization products we purchased to make our kitchen a happy place.
Groceries is a bit misleading because it counts everything we spend at the grocery store not just food items. This would be all those random things you use all the time – medicine, shampoo, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, etc. If I estimate that extra stuff at $1,000 then it means we’re spending $500 a month on grocery groceries. This is acceptable to me, we’re certainly not uber efficient, but I think we do well with meal planning. Our goal here is to keep food costs reasonable without making grocery shopping stressful or time-consuming.
Dining Out is also misleading because it doesn’t include eating out while on vacation – that gets lumped in to the Travel category. We just don’t eat out a lot when home. Not sure what else to say on this.
Hrm, looks like we buy a lot of Clothes… It doesn’t feel like we shop very often, but digging deeper we spent quite a bit upgrading our winter gear last year. Not only that but we prescribe to the CPW philosophy of clothes budgeting. CPW = Cost Per Wear. If you spend a little more on well-made clothes you like you’ll wear them more often and keep them around longer.
Personal Care is predominantly haircuts for the two of us and any medicine that isn’t purchased at the grocery store. It also includes my wife’s beauty products – makeup be expensive.
I track our spending on Gifts so I can account for how good of a person I am. I kid – I needed a place to put this category so here it is. But actually now that I look at it, that’s a lot and doesn’t even include Christmas! As I’ve gotten older I definitely see gift exchanging more as a burden; I have this idea where I tell everyone I know to stop buying each other gifts and we use the time we would have spent fretting and shopping to hang out. So far that has strictly remained an idea.
I have expensive Hobbies, but I don’t mind it too much. I really enjoy my leisure time and aspire to be an active person. My hobby spending is mostly on activities with friends that I get a lot of value from. I think you can start to see my goal isn’t to minimize spending; it’s to make sure our spending is focused on things we enjoy.
Media spending consists of Amazon Prime, Spotify, movies, and books – a pretty tiny sum considering how much we enjoy these things.
Events are concerts, admission to local attractions, and the like. Anything spent on entertainment while away from home goes into Travel which is probably why this category seems so small.
This is the category that gives me nightmares. We spent $2,194 on Cable/Internet! For anyone < 40 this is patently ridiculous. We do watch quite a lot of television, but much of it is provided by the cheapest sources – Netflix and Amazon. There are some things we enjoy about cable, but with all of the cord-cutting options available I struggle to justify this…
Cell Phone spending is also a sore spot for me. Our monthly bill is pretty low relative to other smart-phone users, but still, it just seems ridiculous on the surface. I swing wildly on my feelings about cell phone usage – some days I’m this close to buying a wifi-only flip phone, other days I’m burning data playing stupid games in the grocery store parking lot.
As I said previously, we live in the suburbs and commute to work in our small cars that were purchased used. If you care to read a poorly structured rant on commuting check out my post on The Big Joke.
Behind Gas our biggest expense is Insurance – which I’ll talk in detail about in a future post. Maintenance is what it sounds like and Fees/Tolls includes our registration and inspection fees. I’m not going into detail here because I plan to single out cars in a future post – spoiler alert – your car is killing your fun money. Unless of course you derive fun from your car, then by all means knock yourself out, but please just know where your money is going.
Now it’s time for the big kahuna, the mother of all budget busters – TRAVEL. This is obviously where we prioritize our spending, we LOVE to travel! This break-down is a little new to me as I typically track our spending by trip. In 2016 we took 24 separate trips ranging from a short weekend by car to a week-long European romp. We also both have family >1,000 miles away, so 7 of these trips were visiting fam.
Our Food and Drinks spending will tell you right off the bat we throw frugality out the window on vacation – basically we travel to stuff our faces.
After recklessly gorging the local fare we like to sit back and be Entertained. Our spending here is probably higher than most frequent travelers because we like going on urban vacations. Hikes around natural wonders are fantastic, but Disneyland is fantastical!
Hotel/Airbnb and Airfare are pretty self-explanatory. We live in the Midwest and most of our vacations are via airplane. This leads naturally into Car/Transportation which is our spending on rental cars, ubers, trains, and anything else that moves us.
What’s left is probably the most interesting piece in this entire budget – Points & Miles Game. This is spending on credit card annual fees and other schemes to amass major airline and hotel points to redeem for “free” travel. If you are thinking – spending money to save money is stupid – let me first say you are right. I am under no illusion this saves us money. Au contraire (learned that in France on my flight paid for with miles), we definitely spend more on travel because we use points and miles – we go on more trips with our free flights and hotels and thus spend more on dining out and entertainment. But guess what? We don’t care; we freakin’ love it! In 2016 we redeemed hotel points and airline miles for $7,832 worth of FREE rooms and flights. So really our TRAVEL spending is more accurately represented as $30,000 a year. Oof, people gonna hate me… Signing up for credit cards is a great way to reduce this cost and go some amazing places you probably wouldn’t otherwise consider. You can read my post on Why Its Ok to Signup for Credit Cards just to get the Bonus.
So there you have it, an itemization of this couples $60,755 of expenses. Do you know where your money is going?
Check out the next post for a comparison of our spending vs the “expert” recommended benchmarks. I promise it is much much shorter.