Mr. Smith and I have a dream of achieving financial independence (FI). We’ve been on this path for quite some time and now feels like the time that increased accountability through reporting our monthly finances. Every month, I’ll report the percentages that we spent in each category, our savings rate for the month, and our progress towards our FI number.
You might wonder why I’m reporting percentages and not the actual numbers. Personally, I think that percentages make a lot more intuitive sense for most people. For example, we often general financial rules expressed as percentages such as the rule that your housing expenses should be no more than 30 percent of your gross income. In addition, I’m not quite ready to discuss our actual numbers as I think that both detracts from what we’re trying to do and I want our story to be a bit more approachable.
I used Mint to generate the spending report and figure out our current net worth. It’s not perfect, but as Mr. Smith likes to say, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Without further ado, here’s where we ended up at the end of December 2019.
Housing expenses made up 35 percent of our income for the month and 59 percent of our overall monthly spending. These include our rent, water and gas paid with the rent, supplies for our home (like laundry and dish pods), and a part of the deposit increase for the house.
Our builder requires a deposit every time we complete a phase of selections for the house. This month, we finalized our technology and electric selections. We got to have fun discussions about if we should have speakers on the main level of the house — Yes, for Christmas music, obviously… — and about toilets. Who knew there were so many options?
We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the builder had broken ground on our home. They weren’t supposed to do this until March or so due to permits and weather, but the permits came in early and the weather has been nice. By the way, I love that they email us pictures with the progress!
food costs and the uber frugal month
Twice per year, The Frugalwoods hosts their Uber Frugal Month challenge. It’s a month long challenge that includes daily emails and a Facebook group to engage with. The whole point of the challenge is to see how you can incorporate additional frugality into your life and to make it a low spend month. This is our third time doing the challenge, but in the past, we usually petered out by the middle of the month. This time, we had a specific goal in mind: to reduce our food spending.
While food spending was still our second highest category, we spent A LOT less than usual. Our savings mostly came from reducing our spending on alcohol and not eating out as much. Food spending made up 12 percent of our monthly income and 20 percent of this month’s spending.
We started a new meat delivery service in January. Essentially, they deliver us locally (within 100 miles of Denver) raised meats once per month. The first month’s delivery was awesome! We got a chuck roast, four packages of leg and thigh chicken quarters, and three pounds of ground beef. Since we started in January, we got charged for January’s delivery at the beginning of the month and February’s delivery at the end of the month. I suspect that next month’s food expenses will be lower because we won’t be paying twice.
I’m going to try something different this month in terms of meal planning. Normally, we plan from week-to-week. For February, I’m going to try to plan for the entire month and do one big trip at the beginning of the month for bulk items and one week’s worth of produce. It might help me to streamline the trip and have a better idea for the whole month.
As usual, transportation was our third largest expense for the month. It made up 5 percent of this month’s income and 9 percent of this month’s spending. This included our car payment and one partial tank of gas.
We drive very little since moving to Denver and it really shows in our gas purchases. It makes sense though. We both work from home which cuts out the commute. Most weeks we drive to yoga three times, head out for groceries once, and then we have one or two other events. It’s pretty calm.
I’m looking forward to having the car paid off in 2020! If only to get to write about a different “top 3” expense.
the actual percentages
We definitely bounced back a bit from last month and gained three percentage points towards our fi number. Some of the gains were due to the stock market bouncing back a bit and Justin had a three paycheck month which meant an extra contribution to his tax-deferred accounts.
We’re planning on doing another Uber frugal month during February to see if we can get our expenses even lower and grow the gap between our income and spending a bit more.
How did your month go?