By the numbers: My spending for January 2019

You know how sometimes you let chores and errands and obligations pile up until there's nothing left but to ignore what you want to do and take time to actually do what needs to be done? Yeah, well that's what the past week has been like for me.

I've spent most of my waking hours cleaning and repairing the house, driving around Portland to take care of troublesome tasks, and calling companies (and government agencies) to close accounts and/or clarify questions. This includes six hours I devoted to replacing the kitchen faucet. Ugh.

J.D. vs. the Kitchen Sink

All this is to say: I haven't had time to work much on Get Rich Slowly during the past seven days.

That said, I have been diligently tracking my expenses. As I mentioned at the start of the year, one of my goals in 2019 is to get back to basics. I'd grown complacent over the past few years. I'd succumbed to lifestyle inflation. I want to cut back on expenditures large and small this year to bring my budget more into balance.

Let's see how I did.

January Spending Report

This month, more so than normal, I was eager to analyze my spending. I spent half an hour clicking through Quicken to see if/how my habits have changed since the first of the year. Here's what I found:

  • I spent $701.01 on food in January. Of this, $211.63 was spent on dining out, $346.63 was spent on groceries, and $137.77 was spent on HelloFresh. (The final $8.98 was spent on junk food. I track how much I spend on buying crap at gas stations and convenience stores.) Last year, I averaged $1038.03 per month on food, so this is a delicious decline of 32.5% from that level. Nooice! My hope is that I can cut this even more. Even with the drop, this is way way high.
  • I spent a lot on health and fitness in January. Much of this was spent to purchase a new indoor bike trainer — a stand on which I can place my road bike so that I can ride it in the house. I also bought a new yoga mat, etc.
  • The pets cost us $186.63 in January. Hmmm. I didn't know they were this expensive. Seriously, I haven't been paying attention to how much our zoo costs us. What really surprises me is that our three cats cost more than the dog!
  • I spent $326.08 on “sin” spending in January. That's way too much. I track how much I spend on alcohol and marijuana. (Pot is legal in Oregon, remember. I don't often use it recreationally but I do use it for sleep almost every night.) As I'll probably write about in the near future, my alcohol spending should decrease sharply in coming months. I've decided that I have a problem and I want to change when and how I drink.
  • I only spent $3.99 at the iTunes store in January! This is a huge win for me. I spent less than Kim did at iTunes this month, which is crazy talk. I spent far less than the $204.85 I paid in December. How did I do this? Simple. I didn't let myself browse the new releases. (That said, when I opened iTunes the other day, I did notice that a movie I've been wanting for a long time — Willow — is now available. It took some strength to resist that. I put it on my Wish List in hopes that I'll see it on sale sometime.)
  • I pumped $5141.33 into Get Rich Slowly to make up for a cash-flow crunch. We switched primary ad sources in November, and there's a gap while we wait to get in the new vendor's payment system. (Money came in last week. Yay!)
  • My home value continues to decline. Zillow now says our place is worth $422,000. Nineteen months ago, we paid $442,000. Since then, we've put in about $100,000 of necessary repairs — plus another $50,000 in upgrades. In other words, our home is worth $170,000 less than we've spent on it. This whole situation remains a sore spot with me. But, as many readers have noted, because Kim and I love this place and have no plans to move, it's a sore spot that doesn't really matter. (And I'll bet some of you would be happy if I stopped bringing this up.)

If we ignore the Get Rich Slowly cash infusion, I still spent $4819.27 last month. That's about $1000 more than I wanted to spend.

Looking through my list of expenses line by line, I actually see $1034.40 of one-time expenses. So, in theory, next month my spending should be under $4000. In theory. The problem is that I suspect other one-time expenses will arise. I have this sneaking suspicion that I'm constantly rationalizing “one-time” purchases…as if there should be a $1000/month line-item just for “one-time” expenses. I hope not. But I suspect it's true.

Final Thoughts

Last month, my net worth increased by $30,617.91 (or 2.29%). That's amazing! This was all because the stock market was on a tear, though. The gains aren't due to any acumen on my part.

My goal for the first quarter of 2019 is to become more mindful about my spending. Sure, I want to slash what I can, but my main aim is to be aware of where my money goes, to track it diligently so that I can make appropriate changes going forward.

I doubt I'll post a spending update every month — I'm not sure there's much value in these for anyone other than myself — but I'll publish a few throughout the year. If all goes according to plan, by the end of December I'll have broken some bad habits and built some better ones!

More about...Budgeting

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ssmm2012
ssmm2012
1 year ago

Thanks J.D for the honest reality check – Personally I am still working on the FI part of life with my family and it’s comforting to know that despite the head knowledge, all of us can succumb to “one time” purchases and slow leaks from our budget. Stay strong, keep faith and use the wish lists on websites to manage impulse spending – I do this with Amazon now and it helps immensely. We appreciate your blog and all you do – Thanks.

FoxTesla
FoxTesla
1 year ago

Of course there is value from these posts – opportunities for random people on the internet to criticize! As it were, I don’t tire of the house valuation comments, because I am in a similar situation (purchased at $256k in 2016, net repairs/improvements of $55k but currently appraised by tax office at $202k, thanks to Harvey). I do have a question on your analysis – you are comparing the current Zillow value to the actual purchase price…did the actual purchase price match the Zillow value at the time of purchase? Does your appraised value for property taxes match the Zillow… Read more »

Kristen
Kristen
1 year ago
Reply to  FoxTesla

Zillow consistently undervalues our home- by a LOT (I see the valuation because I use Mint). We are across the river from Portland, OR. Our house happens to be on a greenbelt with a ‘territorial’ view, and our little pocket of neighborhood has home with higher values than most of our immediate area. My current added asset value in Mint to make up for Zillow’s shortcomings is $100K! A couple of other services show realistic values, and our property tax valuation is well over what Zillow says, so I’m very confident in their lack of nuance. So I’d take their… Read more »

JanBo
JanBo
1 year ago
Reply to  Kristen

The point of current taxes is huge to me. In my last home we could fight inflated property taxes with information about current sales in the area. Zillow may be off base, but it does give a starting point. Personally, I liked it when Zillow undervalued my home. My courthouse fights were a bit easier using Zillow. It isn’t as much of an issue where I currently live. I think the property tax that we pay (which is amazingly low) is well used. My house is valued about right and not rising because the area is slightly depressed. We put… Read more »

Susan
Susan
1 year ago

I love these kinds of reports where people make honest assessments of what to cut back on. Regarding sleeping at night, I bought a weighted blanket for my husband’s birthday as it is supposed to help relax people who have trouble falling asleep. We haven’t tried it yet but I figure better sleep is worth a shot.

olga
olga
1 year ago

You definitely look better, for what it’s worth.
It’s a process. You know it. Stick with it. Health and stuff, too.

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago

Six hours? Did you forget the basin wrench? If it makes you feel better Zillow says my house is worth 4% more than we paid for it in 2006 (doesn’t include what we’ve put into it). I don’t think it’s quite right as we have a weird neighborhood and likely isn’t great with comps. But that’s the story. And does Zillow reflect the seasonal slump? Is there a reason you’re using MJ every night? I worry about anything that one can become dependent on for sleep. I’m sure it’s healthier than many other alternatives but habits with such things can… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

That’s painful.

Not having a basin wrench always makes changing a faucet hard. I remember my husband saying so after his first faucet adventure at his mom’s house after we were married (he forgot his at home). I now have the official responsibility to remind him to bring the basin wrench.

Home repair is often frustrating. But the more you do the more you learn, or at least the more tools you have to figure it out.

whiskey
whiskey
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

LOL.. not laughing at you, just laughing with you. Im the handyman for every project from “my email won’t work” to “the septic backed up” … ughhh… Plumbing is probably the biggest pain in my backside. I absolutely hate it. But it saves/has saved me thousands over the years doing it myself, while I learned some things along the way – in order of priority… 1-Beer is drank in order to study the problem. Each beer consumed = apx 1 hr of research on how to complete said task. Therefore a 6pk should equal about a days worth of investigation.… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Was reading about comparative advantage recently, so I’d like to ask for a deeper look at the numbers on this one. (Maybe it’s an article idea…)

Did you figure the opportunity cost of DIY repair vs. working on GRS for the day and paying a pro to do this?

I’m looking not just at the 6h actual labor but time doing research, shopping trips, etc. Pretty much a day’s work yes?

So… would you David Ricardo-it?

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

If you’re going to do that you also have to take into account the value of the knowledge gained as well as the opportunity costs. Many people refuse to build a competence at home repair based on the theory that their time is more valuable. However personal time isn’t measured in dollars, it is measured in the alternative use of the time (opportunity cost). In fact if repairing the sink kept JD from shopping on iTunes, the alternative use of his time could be negative ;). The only way to trade it for value is if he literally would have… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

Ricardo would apply even if you’re competent at both.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

ETA (you can’t edit posts here)

See, in Ricardo’s original example, Portugal had an absolute advantage but still benefitted from trade, as did England.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage#Ricardo's_example

Maybe tuition in the School of Economics is more valuable… just wondering if it applies here.

(Also how many sinks does one change in one’s life…)

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

Ha! More than you’d think if you’re good at it.

And the skill isn’t necessarily specific to faucets.

I’m not sure what you mean by “competent at both”. If I find the time I’ll look at Ricardo, but opportunity costs being what they are these days…

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

I’ve never needed to change a sink in my life. But I do minor car repairs because it’s something I use regularly, and the alternative is expensive, and even when I go to a shop I know what’s going on and what I’m paying for. However, for some people it would be a waste of time and money to do the repairs themselves and they’re better off just having their assistant drop it off at the dealer or whatever. My question has more to do with– at what point is worth doing something yourself and at what point are you… Read more »

Tom Murin
Tom Murin
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

I enjoyed the discussion about opportunity cost. You need to take a lot of things into account in order to determine the real “cost” of something.

J.D. could have paid a plumber to do the job and spent the time he saved buying things on iTunes. Not that would have been expensive!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

@Tom

Yes! That’s the calculation I’m curious about. Like I said, could make up a whole article.

JD buys things on iTunes? Haha ha . Why? I though I read he needed to work on the blog….

Katelyn
Katelyn
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

El Nerdo – Using your car repair example, I’d say there is a great deal of benefit to learning basic repairs yourself if for no other purpose than keeping the auto-mechanics you hire later on honest. “My question has more to do with– at what point is worth doing something yourself and at what point are you better off letting a specialist deal with it?” Outside of the car repair example, I have a different answer to your question. I see this dilemma all the time at work. We’re a start up company (if you can still call us that,… Read more »

liz
liz
1 year ago

Wishing you the best on your efforts this year to get your money and health in better order! I know you can find ways to eat healthy food and cut your food expenses, and cutting alcohol expenses will also benefit both of your goals. I’ve always felt the “less is more” approach to be true!

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago

That dining out looks good JD! I’m presuming you separated out the alcohol portion from those meals out into the “sin” category? Still, a good number (especially if you’ve always done that).

As far as these monthly posts — I think most people enjoy seeing what people have changed to reflect less spending (and what they’ve encountered that forced them to spend more). But it also seems like a lot of people who are open about monthly spending see it as accountability. I’m not sure how you feel about that part, but just a thought.

Jen G
Jen G
1 year ago

I think you’re off to a great start! I really need to start tracking expenses again. We’re naturally frugal and hovering around FI but I have a feeling we’re spending more in some departments than I suspect (namely groceries with two teenage boys in the house).

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
1 year ago

Teach the pets some basic plumbing skills. Everyone has to do his share.

Betsy D
Betsy D
1 year ago

You spent $2610.01 more this month than I make in a month: your spending was more than twice my monthly income. Between food and ‘sin’, you spent a mere $77.54 less than one of my entire paychecks. I am a trained chef, with an associate’s degree from the CIA, I have worked in this field for 24 years. This is the most I have ever been paid, nearly $20/hr, plus benefits. I understand that there are massive discrepancies and differences in how people are paid, across professions, and across the country. But I get paid at LOT more than a… Read more »

Dean
Dean
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I’m on the other side – live in a higher cost of living city, and my budget includes things JD didn’t include (an allocation for auto insurance, utilities, an allocation for property tax, home maintenance costs, and baby stuff to name a few.

Dean
Dean
1 year ago

JD, what do you buy on iTunes? If it’s just movies, there are much cheaper ways to watch a lot of movies. My recent favorites are dvd.com or redbox. dvd.com just sends them to you in the mail – if you watch them same day you get them you can get 6-7 movies per month for $12. And they have a huge selection. I use redbox for more “I want to watch right now” situations. Those are $2.5-$3 and I have to go pick them up and their selection is more limited, but then I don’t have to wait. Those… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  Dean

I think JD addressed that in the comments of another post recently. He likes adding to his library of movies. It’s always fascinating to compare people’s hobbies and the financial impact. I rarely ever watch a movie twice so there is no need to own them. Just this weekend we were cleaning out a kid’s closet (we’re empty nesters now) and found about 10-15 DVDs we’d purchased when they were younger. To goodwill they went. I believe the Sports Night DVDs are the ONLY entertainment (of any media type) that we now own. Of course, I don’t think we even… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
1 year ago

I can do division so I figure out your net worth, I know, that’s nosy of me, sorry. But since we’re counting zillow valuations, I can say my house in Hood river has appreciated by $117,000 since we bought it in 2016, so I can’t complain there. Figuring it all out, I think my net worth is still only at about 1/3 of yours J.D. I know it’s not a competition, but it’s hard not to compare. I guess I’ve got about 10 years to catch up. My wife and I were discussing this today. I recently got a raise,… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
1 year ago

Zillow valuations very rarely actually represent the true market value of a home, so don’t let it get you down! If you want to know the market value, ask your agent. They will be able to tell you (for free.) Source: Realtor here.

Selena
Selena
1 year ago

Could be the secret accountant in me, but I enjoy spending recaps. I like numbers.

And even though I know I shouldn’t, I compare it to my spending. For instance, you’re shocked at spending $200/mo on iTunes. I spent several thousands on a single mobile game over 3 years. (And I have friends who spent several thousands on that same game each month ?)

Wesley
Wesley
1 year ago
Reply to  Selena

Yikes! What is this magical game that consumes all of your spare change!?

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  Wesley

There are more out there than you think. I am aware of a half dozen off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, more. I believe most console games now have enough in app purchases to make them more of a gateway than a full game. My husband plays Clash of Kings. He has spend a few dollars on it, but he plays with plenty of people around the world that have spent 10s of thousands of dollars on it.

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

I know my parents could look at my spending and say “I can’t imagine….”, but I’ll go ahead and say it… cannot even fathom spending this much time or money on such things. We have (grown) kids that both play console games and one that we have worried about in regard to the extra spending.

It’s been interesting to realize that starting with people about 10-15 years younger than us, that you don’t actually “outgrow” gaming. Fascinating. I don’t know anyone “our age” (50s) that games, but I feel like that changes just about 10+ years behind us.

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen

Understood. But they’re set up to do so. When you are in a real time battle with a real person on the other side of the world it’s easy to drop money on it. It’s not unlike spending a lot when you’re out drinking with friends. You dont even realize you’re dropping thousands until the credit card statement comes. And being worldwide, there are a lot of rich people (and their kids) who set the pace on spending. Then a good number of less rich people spending to keep up. You dont even realize you’ve paid as much for your… Read more »

Selena
Selena
1 year ago
Reply to  Wesley

Marvel’s Contest of Champions. Think of it as Street Fighter with Marvel characters. Horribly addictive because of the social aspect of the game.

Selena
Selena
1 year ago

As for my property…over 1M in 2016. Currently valued at 829k. 160k left on the mortgage and my motivation to pay it off dwindles every month.

I indulge in too much Stoli Elit if I dwell on that.

Joe
Joe
1 year ago

Nice job on being more mindful. We’re moving and we’ll spend plenty of money in the months to come. I want to replace the kitchen faucet too. Hopefully, I’ll get it done under 2 hours. I’ve done it before so shouldn’t be too bad. Why did it take you 6 hours? Some kind of problem under the sink?

Deborah
Deborah
1 year ago

Congratulations on making progress! Dropping your food spending by 32% is a huge month-over-month change. Hint: separate non-food grocery items (paper products, detergent, hygiene items, etc.) into a separate Household category, if you don’t already. That way the comparison of food-at-home to food-out is more accurate. You’re right about cats being expensive pets, foodwise. Being obligate carnivores – and finicky ones at that – their food is just pricier. I spend close to $200/month on food for my geriatric brood, and another $40 on litter. May I suggest Chewy.com if you haven’t already tried them? Virtually every brand is available… Read more »

Steve
Steve
1 year ago

I enjoyed your monthly report for January. Please feel free to post them.

For myself I have come to conclude:

1) There aren’t as many places to cut living expenses as I think. Not without significantly altering your lifestyle.

2) There are certain expenses that I know we could cut (dining out), but dog gone it, we enjoy ourselves when we go to a restaurant!

3) Your statement “my main aim is to be aware of where my money goes, to track it diligently so that I can make appropriate changes going forward” is very true!

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

It’s also helpful to realize/acknowledge where you *could* make changes if this becomes a necessity rather than a goal. I use YNAB and I have my category groupings going from necessities down to totally not necessities. If I want to cut back, I can budget less as I go down my list, but I can also easily toggle those groupings off/on in the reporting/graphs to see what I *really* could do if necessary.

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen

I do something similar. I have an “emergency budget”. If one of us lost our jobs or some other major money shift occurred I know exactly what I would cut immediately. I figure times like that are traumatic enough without thinking that through. I have also noticed that some people don’t change their spending at such a time because they assume everything will be fine fairly quickly, and if it isn’t they are in trouble when they could have been comfortable for far longer if they had just thought of it beforehand. Or they do the opposite and panic. I… Read more »

Amy
Amy
1 year ago

I hope you DO post monthly updates like this! As a looooong time GRS reader, this sort of follow-along-with-JD’s-progress post is my favorite kind.

Also, are we going to see a post about your European vacay at some point? Would love to hear more.

The Frug
The Frug
1 year ago

I agree with several of the other comments that you should definitely keep posting your monthly spending updates. For me it’s helpful to see what others in similar situations are spending. I’m always amazed at how spending levels can vary among FI bloggers. I think everyone has certain expenses that get way out of whack and sharing that experience is very helpful.

Barb
Barb
1 year ago

Just a thought, and I am in a completely different (much lower) economic place. Because I can no longer bend and reach my feet, my pedicures have become a medical expense, as has my pot (im a medical patient because the taxes are lower, at least in Co). Not to say you should try to justify so called sin spending, but if you are using it for sleep or pain assistance I would not call that sin money. I have a medical expense account (seperate savings account) and that would comeout of there. The rec pot and booze would come… Read more »

Robi
Robi
1 year ago

I curious…is the $701 food and restaurant spending just for you? If so, does Kim have similar food expenses? Same question for your “sin” spending?

JB
JB
1 year ago

JD, I dont if you’ve used it before, but theres an iOS app called Cheap Charts that will alert you when movies, music, etc goes on sale on iTunes. I’ve been wanting to buy the 3x Movie Hobbit collection (Extended edition) which normally is $53.97. I put an alert on it so whenever it goes on sale, I’ll get a notification. It will also show you the historical prices, so you can get an idea of a sale is really a sale or not.

mary w
mary w
1 year ago

I think retirement makes it easier to have a bit too much alcohol or other drugs. When I was employed I had less time on my hands and needed to be sharp on weekdays. Now I have plenty of time to drink and still accomplish what I need to do. If I decide to sleep late or take a nap no big deal.

Shelly Baur
Shelly Baur
1 year ago

Thank you for keeping everyone updated on your journey. I have wicked insomnia sometimes running for three nights in a row. I tried a lot of medications and finally found Quiniapine to work wonders for me. Bonus for me is it’s only a $10 co-pay with my insurance. It might be financially and health-wise more sound to try prescription drugs. And maybe try a sleep clinic to see if there’s any underlying issue you can address. Better for your lungs, too. I will say I am pro-legalization of marijuana and am really happy to live where it’s legal too in… Read more »

Chris
Chris
1 year ago

Thanks for the update. I am not retired but somehow with my kids gone to college the “I dont drink on a school night” rule has gone out the window and it can quickly add up even if it is one drink with dinner. Have been trying to track to keep myself honest – and then need a workable solution which may be back to weekends only. I would highly recommend at least a $500 budget line for “one time” expenses. My husband didn’t believe me but we easily average $1000 a month (you might be better if you have… Read more »

Susan
Susan
1 year ago

I’m late to the party in responding to this post, and hope you are still reading comments! I’ve followed GRS for years and was so happy to see that you had returned. I’m also five years in recovery and would really enjoy seeing you post about how life changes if you do decide to cut out alcohol. It was honestly the best decision I could have ever made (for my personal life, professional life, emotional life, and of course my finances) and it sounds like you’re ready for a change like this.

K Kuchiya
K Kuchiya
1 year ago

I too want to learn how to be mindful of my expenses. I am in a significant amount of debt at the moment, and I think breaking down what I have spent each month like you have done above will help me in identifying and sealing the leaks so that I can get out of debt faster.

And yes, cats are very expensive!

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