One of my goals in 2019 is to get back to basics. I feel like I've succumbed to lifestyle inflation, so I'm taking the time to track my money in detail (using my fave tool: Quicken 2007 for Mac) in an attempt to identify problem areas. When I find money leaks, I need to decide whether to eliminate them or accept them.
While I'm skeptical that sharing my monthly spending report has any real value — and it invites unnecessary judgment (I'm already judging myself!) — popular opinion from GRS readers seems to be: Do it!
You folks like looking at my struggles with money haha.
So, here's a quick look at how I spent my money in February — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
February Spending Report
In January, I spent $4819.27 to support my lifestyle. In February, I spent $4556.49, a decline of $250.
That's great! But it still misses my target: $4000 per month. While this is an arbitrary goal, I think it's a good one. I feel like that's a sustainable level for the future. (If my income from Get Rich Slowly and other sources increases, then I can consider boosting my target spending.)
Here's a quick run-down of how I spent on certain key categories:
- I spent $726.00 on food in February, up $24.99 from January. Of this, $146.41 was spent on dining out, which is extremely low for me. I spent $373.31 on groceries and $189.75 on HelloFresh. (For more info, see my recent write-up of two months with HelloFresh.) In 2018, I averaged $1038.03 per month on food (and spent $1104.97 in February of last year), so I'm happy with the decline so far in 2019. I'd like to see this drop even more, though.
- Pet spending dropped from $186.63 in January to $112.14 in February. That still seems like a lot. As a point of comparison, I pulled up the numbers from last year. In 2018, I spent an average of $121.40 per month to support our one dog and three cats. Apparently, that's just how much it costs to feed and care for our beasts. (And they're certain they could eat more than we currently feed them.)
- In January, I spent $326.08 on sin, a category I use to track how much I spend on alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. (Pot is legal in Oregon. I don't often use it recreationally, but I use it nearly every night to help me sleep. A couple of times per year, I buy cigars and/or clove cigarettes.) In February, my spending on sin dropped to $117.15. This is primarily because I went four weeks without touching a drop off alcohol. And since I resumed drinking, I've been much more moderate in my consumption.
- As I mentioned at the end of the year, the iTunes store is a dangerous spot for me. I have a tendency to browse and buy a lot of movies. In January, I spent only $3.99 on the iTunes store. Last month, I spent only $39.94. That two-month total of $43.93 is far below the $356.33 I spent at iTunes during the first two months of 2018. Progress!
- In January, I had $1034.40 of one-time expenses. At the time, I worried that every month would have one-time expenses. That's still a worry. In February, I spent $376.80 to replace the bald tires on my new 1993 Toyota pickup. I also spent $1340 to renew our subscription to Broadway Across America (two tickets for seven shows throughout the year).
Despite spending $4556.49 in February, my net worth increased by $24,276.77 (or 1.78%) — and that's after a 2.29% increase in January. My net worth has grown $54,894.68 (or 4.11%) during the first two months of 2019.
I wish I could say my increase in wealth has come because I'm so damn smart, but that's just not the case. All credit goes to gains in the stock market. If we enter a rocky patch — or worse, a recession — my net worth is going to fall fast. When that happens, I want to be ready to cut spending, if necessary.
After two months of updating Quicken daily, I'm noticing some patterns. For example, my spending falls into four broad categories.
- Fixed expenses (such as pets, insurance, and utilities) come to roughly $1100 per month.
- Variable spending on necessities (such as food, haircuts, and home + car repairs) comes to about $1200 per month.
- Variable spending on luxuries (such as books, sin, and the hot tub) comes to about $700 per month.
- One-time expenses (new pickup, theater tickets, and the like) are totaling about $1500 per month.
I consider roughly half of my spending to be necessary; the other half is (mostly) indulgent.
The fixed expenses are obligations. They're not going away and they're unlikely to change. Variable spending on necessities can be altered, although there's going to be a floor for each expense. (You've been watching in real-time as I toy with my food spending, for instance.)
Variable spending on luxuries is by definition an indulgence. I could absolutely cut these costs, if needed. And, in fact, I have my eye on some of these. Finally, the one-time expenses are a mixed bag. Some, like the 1993 Toyota pickup, are necessities (or close to necessities). Others, like the theater tickets, are absolute luxuries.
I suspect that I'll want to re-evaluate some of my one-time expenses by the time the year is over. Some are more like annual expenses than “one-time” expenses, and I'd probably profit from determining which to continue…and which to cancel.
Kim and I enjoy our theater excursions and our Portland Timbers season tickets, but if we truly want to cut costs, some of these indulgences may have to go. We'll see. For now, I'm content tracking them and flagging them for future discussion.
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he's managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.