By the numbers: My spending for March 2019

March was a mixed month in my financial world. I ended March with a slightly higher net worth (up 0.6%) but my spending was the highest it's been this year: $5989.10. Yet, that spending was mostly mindful. I wasn't frittering away money on silly things.

If I wasn't buying dumb stuff, then where did my money go? A few worthwhile places:

  • I spent $653.31 on the yard and garden. Specifically, Kim and I tore out a big cedar tree in the corner of the yard, then converted that space to a small orchard. I use the word “orchard” loosely here. We planted three fruit trees, four blueberries, four grape vines, and a bunch of strawberries. I hope to write about this more in the near future.
  • I spent $625.72 on health and fitness. In the middle of the month, I had quite a scare. Out of nowhere, I had chest pains, so I visited the local hospital ER. My co-pays and prescriptions are reflected in March's spending — and there's more to come. (We're about to have a l-o-n-g article on the $6800 hospital bill I received in the mail yesterday. That'll happen in April or May.) Meanwhile, Kim had knee surgery at the end of the month. I paid for some of her stuff out of my pocket.
  • I spent $579.36 on gifts in March, which is very very unusual.
  • I paid the $450 annual fee on my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. (Yes, I know this seems like a lot. But remember the card comes with a $300 travel credit, which means my effective annual fee is $150. I believe I receive $150 in value from the card's other benefits.)

I don't consider any of that spending frivolous although I recognize that some of it isn't necessary. (Do we need an orchard? Do I need to give gifts?)

That said, I did have some weak spots in my spending. I bought several movies on iTunes. In fact, I spent $72.63 on iTunes in March. I need to be careful lest I return to my former profligate ways. No more looking in the iTunes store! I also spent $230.15 on alcohol during the month (most of which was beer).

How did I do with groceries? As you know, my food spending had grown out of control, which is one of the primary reasons I'm tracking my spending in detail this year. Last year, I spent over $1000 per month in food. This year, I'm spending less than $700 per month.

I was very proud of my food spending for most of March. I spent a total of $658.21 during the month: $468.27 on groceries and $184.24 on dining out. That's my lowest monthly food total in two years (excepting months during which I've been on the road).

Going into the last week of March, I'd only spent $241.87 on groceries. That's amazing! Things fell apart, however, when I stocked up on food for Kim's convalescence. Meanwhile, we only had three restaurant meals during the month. For one of those, I paid for two guests. Not bad. Not bad.

Quarterly Spending

Now that we've made it through the first three months of 2019, I was curious how my quarterly spending compared to last year. Monthly spending can fluctuate quite a bit. You can get a better idea of your actual habits by looking at a bigger picture.

Here are some highlights:

  • I spent $116.56 at the iTunes store during the first quarter of 2019. That's less than I spent on movies and TV shows during any single month last year, so that's a win.
  • I spent $2076.54 on food for the quarter, which is lower than any quarter in 2018. I spent $1179.53 on groceries, $323.52 on HelloFresh, and $542.29 on dining out. That restaurant spending is another big win. The grocery spending was good — better than any quarter in 2018 — but I feel like I can do better.
  • I spent a lot on health and fitness during the first three months of the year: $1752.60. And the thing is, it's not going to get much better.
  • This year, I decided to separate hot tub expenses into its own category. I spent $151.88 on hot tub stuff (chemicals, etc.) during the first three months of the year. And, no, that doesn't include electricity.
  • Our zoo — three cats and a dog — cost us $447.54 during the first quarter of 2019.
  • You know where I could save big bucks? By drinking less. I spent $586.36 on alcohol during the first three months of the year (and that includes four weeks during which I didn't drink a drop!). That's $6.44 per day. Time for me to cut back on my craft beer obsession…

I spent a total of $15,364.85 during the first quarter of 2019, an average of $5121.62 per month. That's not a great number, to be honest. It's pretty much what I was spending last year. Still, I'm trying not to get too stressed about things…yet.

The whole point of this exercise is for me to figure out where I'm spending my money and why. Once I have a clear picture, I can make some course corrections.

April is the Cruelest Month

Unfortunately, April is going to have some crazy, crazy spending numbers. My accountant called yesterday to give me my tax bill. I owe $20,000. (I'm not joking.) The hospital called too. They wanted to let me know that I owe them $6800 for the ER visit in the middle of March. To cap things off, payment is due on the vacation that Kim and I booked a year ago. We'll be headed to Greece and Italy in August — but we're paying for it today.

Fortunately, I knew that some of these expenses were looming, so I have cash set aside to pay for taxes and our trip. (The ER visit was a surprise, obviously, and I don't have money set aside for that.) That doesn't change the fact that April's expenses are going to be insane, though. It just means I'm somewhat prepared for the insanity.

The upside to having a $6800 hospital bill so early in the year? It gives me a chance to make maximum use of my health insurance! My max “out of pocket” is $7900 annually. Since it looks like I'm going to hit that, it makes sense to address all medical issues that are bugging me in 2019.

At the end of 2018, I had a net worth of $1,334,227.20. At the end of March, my net worth was $1,397,545.18. That's a leap of more than $63,000 (or 4.75%). That's great! In reality, this simply reflects a hot stock market. My investment accounts are up $77,933.04 this year (11.45%).

A hot stock market can cover a multitude of sins…

More about...Budgeting

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Duke
Duke
1 year ago

I think you could save some time. Screen shot personal capital. Glad you did not have heart attack. Maybe orchard will help with booze….u can make your own and buy educational videos or get a library card. Think part of FIRE is being resourceful. So what you are saying about the market…back to even from December? Enjoy your site.

Chelsea
Chelsea
1 year ago

Do you have an HSA, J. D.?

Josh
Josh
1 year ago

As a CPA I’m curious on the tax bill. You have mentioned several times GRS isn’t yet profitable so it wouldn’t come from there.

I’m sure you have some book royalties and course sales and affiliate payments, but $20k is a serious tax bill, especially with the new 20 percent deduction on pass through income. Maybe you had a ton in capital gains?

Not trying to be nosey, just curious 🙂

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

Ah, well, better to have $130k or so in capital gains than $130k in ordinary income!

Sandi Kay
Sandi Kay
1 year ago

Negotiate the hospital bill, after you’ve gone over the itemized receipt with a fine-tooth comb. Errors are super-common.

If you’re paying the bill in cash, negotiate for at least a 10% cash discount for payment in full within 30 days.

JC Webber III
JC Webber III
1 year ago

As long as we’re sharing…

We are up $110k for the quarter (after expenses of $44,872), for a quarterly finishing portfolio value of $1,545,260. Gross portfolio gain was $154,872.

Yep, a hot market DOES cover a multiple of sins. 8^)

We actually maintain two budgets. One for the US, where we spent $28,033 for the quarter, and one for our time down in Mexico (where we have spent the last 2+ months) and where we spent $16,839 this past quarter (we are in the mist of finishing out our new home down here).

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago

JD — I hope you are doing well. I can only imagine the scare of heading to the ER with chest pains. We’re “of that age” (a little older than you) and certainly not an uncommon thing.

In the beer department, are there ANY domestic beers you can tolerate? My suggestion is to have a craft beer or 2 and then move to a lighter cheaper beer. Less calories and less dollars. Or go out and have a beer in a social setting and just keep domestic at home. If that means drinking less overall, also a good thing.

Joe
Joe
1 year ago

I hope the chest pain wasn’t serious. That’s a big bill. I think you’re right about health spending. It’ll only go up from here.
We owe the tax man a lot less this year, around $4,000 total for fed and state.
I guess it’s a good thing overall, that means we made more money than expected.
But it’s still painful to send those big checks off.

Spencer for Hire
Spencer for Hire
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe

That big check to the IRS payment is always a good punch to the stomach every April.

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